Last week, I gave one of my first assignments to my English class– asking students to write a letter to their teachers, outlining their goals for this year and describing last year’s experience in school. One of the new students, who is new to our school this year, wrote, “At my old school, all of my teachers… they didn’t like me. I always got in trouble, and I didn’t do my best. I like it here so far, and I want to do well. I will do whatever it takes to be successful here.”
This student– we will call him Michael– has had a very challenging start to the school year. He has already earned six detentions in just two weeks and has been suspended one day as well. He has a fairly expansive Behavior Intervention Plan, which outlines his difficulty with following directions, maintaining focus, and regulating his emotions. In class, he calls out, makes inappropriate jokes, gets out of his seat, has difficulty keeping his hands to himself and often gets aggressive with his classmates.
My heart sunk as I read that Michael felt that his teachers did not like him at his previous school. No matter how a child behaves, it is never acceptable to treat him with anything but love and support. He needs to know that we want him there, that we appreciate him, and that we are rooting for him to be successful. A child needs to know that his teachers (and all adults) or believe he can succeed. If adults do not believe in the child, how can we expect him to believe in himself? My goal for this year is to make sure that all students know that they belong, that they have a place at school.
Furthermore, as much as a child may misbehave in class, that does not always mean that he does not want to be there, or that he does not like his teachers. More often than not, this child’s difficulty regulating his or her emotions and impulses has nothing to do with his motivation. Michael clearly wants to do well in school. He just needs some help getting with managing his behavior.
This year, show some compassion to your students. They do want to be successful, and they do want your approval. More than anything, they want to be accepted, loved, and believed in. Make sure they know, every day, that they have a place in your classroom and in the world.
–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.