Equanimity Update: Student behavior goals
Can you believe it's already April?! Here in Jackson, Mississippi, spring isn't in full swing yet. Still, it's nice to have more sunlight and warmer days. It's also exciting to bring this semester to a close. I'm eager to see my clients' hard work manifest as higher scores, better grades, improved performance, and greater confidence.
What is equanimity anyway?
Recall, our working definition of equanimity: a noun that expresses what it means to experience life events with mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper - especially in difficult situations. Prior to writing January's blog, I studied the work of Dr. Tara Brach which highlights the restorative health benefits of learning how to sit in uncomfortable situations.
In reflecting on the concept of equanimity as it applies to professional development, I've spent a lot of time reviewing The Year of Equanimity in Education blog post.
Have I purposefully stood with children or left them to their own devices?
Did I recognize root causes of misbehavior or punish students who lack skills I haven't taught?
Am I accepting learners as they are or judging unorthodox pleas for support?
As oppose to shining a light on the bright moments, it's more effect to unpack the cloudy ones.We want to finish this semester stronger than we began, so I challenge you to write about one situation when you missed the mark. Sit with this exercise long enough to uncover one example for each question.
Here's my truth moment.
A student experienced three melt-downs in an hour. He is a lower elementary client with severe behavior challenges; self-control often requires more effort than he can muster.
The task was to write interrogative (asking) sentences. Given his history, I anticipated the task would be a challenge. His initial resistance was expected, so I left him to his own devices. The expectation was that he'd struggle as he'd done before, write the sentences, and we'd move on. So much for expectations...
The first scaffold involved writing asking words on the whiteboard; these are words we use to begin asking sentences. Still, the student opted to start sentences using his own words even after reviewing our list of asking words a few times. Surprisingly, this support failed miserably as well.
Via questioning, I learned that the student wanted to write declarative (telling) sentences instead of asking sentences. I smiled, said I understood, and confirmed that we had to write the asking sentences to move on; this response escalated the situation to self-harm. I was flabbergasted and hurt for him.
My spirit of perseverance took over. We were going to finish writing these six (or seven) sentences. Today. So, I dug deeper.
As I'm brainstorming strategies to end the session on a high note, he's throwing writing utensils, crying loudly, and kicking on the floor. The noise and distractions made it difficult to think, so I picked him up and sat him on my knee. He fought and struggled. I wrapped my arms around him and rocked him. I'm not sure why; I'd never done this before with a client. But, it worked.
He quieted himself during this time and his breathing returned to normal. I read over a document, and we remained in this position until he asked to write the interrogative sentences. Go figure!
I was pleased that he eventually completed the task. It wasn't good enough to complete the task. Next time, we'd need to complete the task within a much shorter time period.
Here's how I plan to end stronger.
Days later, the potential of a similar challenge swelled under the surface as we learned to sort spelling words in ABC order. I promised to end the session if he didn't choose to stay on task. Immediately, he cried that he wanted to stay and finish his homework. (My heart melted.)
I decided to incorporated my trusty star system to keep the student mindful of his behavior. He'd earn a star for unproductive behaviors. Three stars signaled the session would end. This client also had the opportunity to get rid of stars by choosing one of a few productive behaviors I'd explained and modeled for him.
Deep down students want to learn; they also want to demonstrate mastery. During our most recent session, the same client struggled with self-control and didn't give up on the task at hand. I was so excited for him, and his huge smile showed proof he was proud too.