Monday, September 7, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #29: Behavior Communicates a Need

This week's entry comes from Karren Colbert, who has a decade of experience in and out of the classroom. She's been a fourth grade teacher, reading specialist, instructional coach, and most recently started an educational consulting company. She also blogs at The Write Brained Teacher.

Behavior communicates a need. Although it may seem like some students come to school every day to make your life difficult, look beyond the behavior to uncover the unspoken message a student is trying to communicate. Linda Albert identifies three basic needs of students in her book Cooperative Discipline: students need to feel capable of succeeding, connected to the community or classroom, and they must believe that they have something to contribute. What is it that a challenging student is trying to tell you?

To this day, one of my most challenging students was Caleb. He came to me, as a fourth grader, unable to read. Most days he didn’t come at all. At first, that was fine with me because I was a brand new teacher and my job was noticeably easier when he was absent. But when I began to look beyond his behavior, I saw a boy who didn’t feel very capable, connected, or contributing.

I enlisted the help of our school custodian, Mr. Ted. Among the fourth grade, it was a coveted job to help Mr. Ted at the end of the lunch period. Caleb began helping him sweep the gym floor and wipe down the tables every day. Not because he earned it, or even deserved it, but because he needed it. When he was absent, Mr. Ted reminded Caleb that he was missed. It wasn’t long before his attendance improved and so did his ability to read. I haven’t seen Caleb personally since I left the classroom, but you can be that I get regular updates from Mr. Ted.

Read more about this project here, then when you're ready, email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 30 is scheduled for next Monday, September 14th, but as of this writing that spot was still open.