I have this student, Juan, and there are some days working with him that I earn every single penny that is on my paycheck. Juan will push me and push me every day; we constantly battle to see who will have the power for the day. That being said I know what he is doing, and why he is doing it, but sometimes I will still let him engage me in this battle.
I have taken many approaches to working with Juan. I often try the “good cop” approach where I am as nice as can be. I will compliment him just for coming into the classroom on his own two feet (he will often take a running start and slide in on his knees!). I will say, “I like the way Juan turned in his homework and sat down at his desk. I like how Juan has his pencil out and is showing me that he is ready to learn.” This will work for a while, but when I stop praising him every 20 seconds then he begins to start getting antsy.
When work becomes too hard for Juan, he will state, “I’m tired!” He knows that he can go to the class library and lay on the carpet when he needs to, but instead he will begin to wander the room. He will touch other students’ hair, pat them on the back, lie across their desks, and get into arguments with them. I will often try to continue my “good cop” approach and compliment other students for sitting and working quietly at their desks. Juan will continue his stroll around the room and argue with the teaching assistant when she tries to usher him back to his seat. It is at this point that I forget my “good cop” approach and become the “bad cop.”
I get so frustrated that my nice approach and compliments haven’t worked that I will yell at him. After I yell to get back into his seat, Juan will take his time wandering around the room and eventually sit back in his seat. He will sit down and begin to start engaging me again. He will say things like “I’m tired!” “I didn’t get the answer” “Why aren’t you helping me?”
At this time I try my third approach, which is to ignore the bad behaviors. So while I am instructing the rest of the class, or working one-on-one with a student, Juan begins his “attack.” What starts as trying to get my attention turns into “teacher, Teacher, Teacher, TEACHER, TEACHER, TEACHER!!!” I have to say that my students are sometimes better at ignoring a behavior that I am. His tablemates will remind him to get back on task, and they will try to help him. They usually don’t get far with him, but I give them credit for trying.
By now Juan has become a huge distraction to the rest of the class, and I will send him out into the hallway with either me or our teaching assistant. Juan knows that he is to walk the hallway to get himself back together, before he can come back in. The walks will usually do the trick and when Juan gets back he is ready to attempt what we are supposed to be working on.
As I am writing this, I can see that I am giving Juan exactly what he is craving…attention. He doesn’t seem to care if the attention is positive or negative. I would much rather be giving him attention for all of the positive things that he is doing, rather than the negative things. I really do try to ignore the bad behaviors and focus on the good behaviors but I do have my breaking point.
I have tried individual incentive charts, a personal marble jar, smiley faces when he is good, and nothing seems to work. I really don’t know what else to do. What strategies do you use with students that are intent on getting your attention?