Why Educators Need to Practice Self-Control in the Classroom

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a 14-year-old high school student, who attacked a substitute teacher at Cody High School, in Detroit, Michigan sending the teacher to the hospital with minor injuries. But, what happens when the roles are reversed and the teacher attacks a student and sends the student to the hospital? Well, it happened. In November 2018, a band teacher in California was charged with child abuse after he assaulted one of his students apparently punching a student repeatedly with a cell phone during class.

Marston Riley, a 64-year-old music teacher at Maywood Academy High School, punched a 14-year-old student after the student verbally confronted him and a fight pursued. What was the confrontation about? Mr. Riley asked the boy to leave band class because he was wearing an inappropriate uniform and in violation of the school uniform rule. But the student refused to leave. Also, it is reported that allegedly the student threw a basketball at the teacher which triggered the incident. Oh, I forgot, the teacher who is African-American was called the N- word along with other racial slurs.

Self-control. Why teachers, administrators, school staff personnel and paraprofessionals working with children need to have this particular skill set. Self-control is one characteristic that is needed in dealing with this type of population in urban school settings or even group homes and residential settings. As a professional, mentally, we should always be in control of our emotions which will result in our actions during a crisis situation, either positive or negative.

In my years of experience in working with at-risk youth and emotionally disturbed kids, I can tell you it is not always easy. Yes, I have been kicked, punched and verbally abused. But the worst and most degrading things that ever happened to me was to be spit on and called the N-word. I can relate, but I never laid my hands on a child. So what do you do?

First, always remain calm when dealing with a minor in this type of situation. Remember, you are the professional. Children are not thinking logically at this point so they act first and think last. Never go back and forth with a child verbally. It only escalates the problem and in most cases may lead to a physical altercation. The adult rarely wins in this type of situation.

Or, you can use the, “drop the rope” approach. This concept comes from the tug of war sport that pits two individuals against each other in a test of strength; a struggle for supremacy or control; a struggle to win. When there’s a verbal altercation with a student to correct the behavior there’s always a tug of war. Just drop the rope if possible! The student can not win arguing with himself or herself and hopefully, the situation will calm down. This leads me to my next point.

Second, call for an immediate assistant if the problem seems to be getting out of hand. Mr. Riley did the correct thing in calling for back up. Never be ashamed of walking away from an escalated problem. Never think that you are weak because you removed yourself from a situation. Allow someone else to step in and help de-escalate the problem. Even if you’re right, “tapping out” and letting others intervene is best for everyone. Remember this is your career and you don’t want a charge against you at the end of the day! Child advocacy laws will protect the minor most of the time.

Finally, use verbal de-escalation techniques as much as possible to diffuse the situation without getting into an argument. Even when I was being cursed out, yelled at and had items thrown at me, like the student who threw the basketball at Mr. Riley, I would say something like, “Okay, how can I help you?” or ” I understand that you’re upset that I asked you to leave” or “Maybe can we discuss this after class.” Or something to the effect of, “You’re probably right” or even, “I’m sorry.”

Listen, I get it! It’s hard and difficult to redirect behaviors when students, residents or clients reach this level of disrespect. But every time you step into that classroom or workplace it is your responsibility, as the adult, to role-model appropriate behavioral patterns that you want the child to model. A few things we can do to help in a crisis situation are:

  • Watch your tone, volume and cadence
  • Watch your body language and stance
  • Personal space should always be 1 1/2 to 3 feet
  • Never defend your credibility as a teacher, mental worker, etc.,
  • Kids know how to push our buttons. Don’t take it personally

For additional information and resources, please visit my website at http://www.castekinnovative.com or email me castekinnovative@gmail.com

Are Teachers Really Teachers or Behavioral Specialists?

Did you know that the attention span for adults was 12 seconds in 2000 and only 8 seconds in 2015? The human attention span is at its lowest ever (thanks to technology!). According to a study done by Microsoft, the average human being now has an attention span of 8 seconds and the attention span for the average listener is only 10 minutes. Could this be the reason why some of our students are not as focused as they should be in the classroom today and one of the main reasons for misbehaving?

Students retain only 5% of a lecture and 10% of reading an assignment after a 24 hour period according to Sousa, 2001.  Today teachers are dealing with more disruptive non-compliant behaviors than ever before. There was a time when students would come to class and somewhat respect the authoritarian or authoritative figure standing in front of the classroom. But today, it’s a whole different story! Are students not listening or participating as much because of lack of interest, boredom or disengagement? 

An engaged student is a learned student. When a student is not engaged, it may lead to disruptive behaviors in the classroom.  Maybe not all the time, but sometimes it does happen. Teachers’ are not only educators, but many are forced to play the role of some sort of behavioral specialist or intervention crisis specialist to de-escalate unwanted behaviors. Therefore, are teachers undercover behavioral specialists?

The first question to ask is do teachers want to spend their time teaching curriculum or dealing with behaviors? The goal of every teacher is to have their students learn the academic curriculum. From my observations as a former therapeutic day treatment case manager in the Culpeper County public school district, in Culpeper, Virginia, I’ve seen firsthand that teachers do not want to waste classroom time dealing with constant low-level disruptions. Low-level disruptions are those nagging, constant, everyday little annoying things that drive teachers crazy like talking in class, texting, tapping on the desk, talking back, etcetera. You know the drip, drip, drip, of a never-ending faucet effect.

According to a recent survey, the second question to ask is do teachers want to spend up to 3 to 4 hours per week teaching students how to behave? I recently spoke with a teacher and asked her, what was her biggest challenge in the classroom? She stated, “These kids don’t know how to behave.”  Most people will agree that teaching corrective behaviors is the parent/guardian responsibility, not solely the educator.

The student is with his or her teacher maybe 7 to 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. The child is with his parent/guardian supposedly in their supervision at 15 to 16 hours a day, including weekends. If the educator is trying to teach good behavior and appropriate learning skills to different kids throughout the week and the home environment teaches the child something different or nothing at all, then it’s a loss and tragedy to the public school system and the community.

The final question to ask is will inspired teachers spend the next 4 plus years in college only to be disrespected, cursed or yelled at by non-engaged students for low wages? The answer is, probably not. But some will because teaching, training and cultivating young minds is one of the greatest opportunities ever!

Not only are teachers educators, but they also serve in other roles such as counselor, referee, coach, mentor, parent, fundraiser coordinator, advocate, hall monitor and mandated reporter, just to name a few. So, how do educators move from managing disruptive behaviors to actually having more time to educate? There are three recommendations to consider.

  • 1. Learn how to diffuse a situation quickly and continue to teach. Most students are only attention seekers.
  • 2. Know how, when and what battles to fight. If a teacher is able to teach, the students are able to learn and the annoyance is not serious, it may not be worth the struggle to engage the student.
  • 3. Keep the students engaged. An engaging student is a learning student, which is easier said than done.

I understand educators are not some type of behavioral specialist that can teach and correct at the same time.  But some are put in such stressful environments to the point of teaching behaviors become the norm as opposed to teaching the curriculum leaving no time to teach! Nor do they want to spend time correcting behaviors on a daily basis.

Teachers went to college, obtained a degree and became licensed to teach our kids and enhance their learning capacity, not necessarily deal with the negative ongoing persistent defiant behaviors. What’s taught in the school system, accountability and respect should also be taught in the home.

For additional information and resources, please visit my website at http://www.castekinnovative.com or email me castekinnovative@gmail.com

School Behavior in Urban Cities

Are urban cities public school systems a pipeline for prison? According to Detroit Fox News, on Thursday, January 10, 2019, around 10:30 am, a 14-year-old student walked into a classroom at Cody High School in Detroit, Michigan, and began assaulting a 63-year-old substitute teacher who also happens to be a grandmother. The reason for the attack, she alerted school officials and the boy’s father the day before the incident, that the young man smelled like marijuana and was being disrespectful. When the father asked his son why he assaulted her, his answer was, “she snitched on me.”

School behaviors in urban cities. Aggressive behaviors seem to be on the rise across the nation in the 21st-century classroom. According to a poll taken by the American Federation of Teachers, 21% of teachers in urban school districts lose on an average of 4 hours or more of instruction time per week in dealing with disruptive behaviors. The fact that school issues may lead to crime may be true.  I want to share with you 3 reasons why I believe school to prison pipeline may be on the rise.

First, more schools are outsourcing more than ever before. With the rise of school shootings in the last 20 years, schools now have more resource police officers, which is a very good thing to deter unwanted behaviors. However, the flip side is that school administrators are now handing over disruptive behaviors (that the schools should be dealing with) to resource officers in connection with the juvenile detention and court system.

Brian Martinet wrote an article last December 2018, concerning Portland, Oregon’s school district in which 5,438 calls were made, resulting in 20 arrests. I do understand at times, it may be necessary to call for additional assistance in extreme cases. But for the remaining 5,418 cases, are teachers, administrators and school support staff not equipped to handle less violent behaviors? It is estimated that 68% of federal and state inmates do not have a high school diploma and may be on the rise if something is not done to stop this surge of violence in schools.

Secondly, students are dropping out as well as being pushed out. Students who drop out of school are 8 times more likely to end up in jail due to negative peer influences, boredom and lack of structure. Experts also suggest that students are being ” pushed out” due to lack of resources, educators not fully understanding the child’s home environment and unconditional positive regard for students. It is estimated that 63% of black and Latino students nationwide are affected by this concept. School detentions, suspensions, and expulsions are all formulas for the juvenile court system, alternative school settings, unstable communities or even death.

Finally, the role anti-social behavior play in all of this. Let’s face it, we are living in a world where social media has taken over. It is the #1 influence of adolescence behavior. Most kids lack good communication skills, interpersonal skills and cannot build appropriate relationships with adults. When it comes to education, some teachers are afraid of the students and the student’s parents. Some teachers are afraid to voice their opinions to school officials without being reprimanded, and some school officials are afraid to confront the student’s parents. But guess what? The child isn’t afraid of anyone in the home, community or at school.

With the lack of social skills, these kids have no consideration for authority figures or their peers which may cause harmful, intentional or negligent damage to society. Anti-social behavior may be overt, involving aggressive actions against siblings, peers, parents, teachers, or other adults, such as verbal abuse, bullying, and hitting; or covert, involving aggressive actions against property, such as theft, vandalism, and fire-setting.

The 14-year-old student mentioned earlier was arrested with multiple charges and detained at Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center in downtown Detroit. The substitute teacher was released from the hospital and is resting at home.

What can we do to help teachers?

1. Support our teacher’s rights by legislating local, county, state and federal laws.

2. Advocate for teacher and school safety.

3. Adopt a school and volunteer. A local organization in my area has recently adopted an urban middle school, hopefully, to begin mentoring the young men.

For additional information and resources, please visit my website at http://www.castekinnovative.com or email me castekinnovative@gmail.com

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life…
John C. Maxwell