By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Friday, February 5, 2021

Getting past behavior problems

Here are some teacher comments about a student.

"Number of times late: 20 Very disgraceful. Very bad."

"General conduct: Very bad -- is a constant trouble to everybody and is alwarys in some scrape or other."

"He has no ambitiion."

"He cannot be trusted to behave himself anywhere. He has very good abilities."

"He is the meanest child in the world."

This young student was nicknamed the little bulldog.

He was sent to boarding school and was visited by his parents only once a year.

His father was convinced that he would never amount to anything. When he paid him any attention at all, he was constantly critical of the boy. After graduation his father encouraged him to join the army because he couldn't think of anything else he was suited for. Surprisingly, the young man did very well in the military, distinguishing himself in every field. He thrived on the action.

The boy was Winston Churchill. It turned out that he did amount to something.

Ken Washam tells of Luis, a student in the middle school where Ken was principal. Luis was also a lot of trouble. He was in a gang. He had tatoos covering his arms. He was frequently involved in fights. Ken got Luis to join the football team where his aggression was an asset rather than a liability. He was good at it and seemed to enjoy being cheered for his aggression rather than punished. His behavior problems in school disappeared...until the end of football season. Without the outlet of football, behavior problems in class returned. It wasn't a perfect turnaround for Luis but it worked partially well and indicated that Luis wasn't a lost cause but needed the right outlets.

Misbehavior in school is often dealt with through interventions: assigned tasks or programs which are expected to bring about specific changes such as the end of tardies or the end of fights. Interventions may be constructive such as counseling or often, they are punishments.

Another approach is to offer supports. Supports are recommendations that are intended to be helpful for the student. Directing the young Winston Churchill to the military may not have been intended as a support by his father, but it turned out that it was. Recommending Luis to the football team was intended by Principal Washam as a support and was far more effective than the punishments that Luis had been frequently assigned previously. Get past it.

It is often the case that the students who need support in school are exactly the ones who may not get it because of the annoyance that their misbehaviors engender in those around them.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, interventions, supports

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