I’ve been thinking about the philosophy of Dr. Ross Greene, a doctor/author who is known for his advice to schools and families about kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. My student Clarke is highly explosive, especially toward the end of the day when he is less able to manage the frustrations of routine school demands. He just seems “done” with it all, unable to moderate his reactions or temper his impulses for one more minute. He gets a recently altered noon-time dose of his meds, so I don’t have much evidence that it is a med related problem. It really does seem like he is on overload, unable at his tender age of 7 to do much more to stay settled and on track.
So, of course, I am left to ponder my role in helping him to manage that last hour of the day.
Just last week I implemented a different plan for Clarke, one that incorporates Greene’s idea of establishing priorities; that is, defining exactly what issues I can let slide that last part of the day, and which issues cannot be ignored due to safety.
Greene frames his priority plan in terms of “BASKETS”. Some behaviors like sassiness and refusals (as in ignoring directions to go to the time-out desk or refusing to complete a written assignment) are low priority, and are “placed” in a low priority “Basket”. I can ignore his behavior, and delay intervention until the next morning when he is capable of processing the situation without a crisis. Dangerous behavior is a high priority “Basket” behavior, and requires immediate intervention, even though it means he melts-down and escalates through the crisis mode. The probable crisis is deemed “worth it” because others or he, himself were injured ….or were at risk for injury.
I used this Basket 1 intervention last week when Clarke got very sassy, even threatening in tone. I reminded him it’s not okay to talk to me that way, and he stopped, put his head down on his desk and grumbled once or twice. When he kicked at his desk twice in the next minute or so, I directed him to the crisis room for processing/intervention, etc. He ignored my direction, and remained seated, head down, and the kicking ceased.
I looked at the clock. 2:05. Of course.
I “let it go”….. Clarke remained at his seat as his classmates left the room for end of the day recess. He even appeared to have fallen asleep. But when the kids re-entered and dismissal routines began, he calmly raised his head and followed directions amiably.
He was able to accept his point sheet with loss of points for that time of day, pack up, and get on the bus without a fuss.
I resisted any direct interaction with him, aside from what was required by the routines in place. It was hard. I am one who generally believes consistency is gold. But I wrote myself a note to remember to deal with the breach at the start of the next day….
That next morning on arrival, Clarke accepted his timeout consequence, including an extended detention time for “being out of his assigned space”. He processed calmly. It felt like a successful intervention, but with only a few days in, I can only hope long term, this is an effective solution.
The question then becomes “Effective for who?” Clearly, this was a satisfactory solution for me: there was no physical aggressiveness, no major tantrum, no chance he’d miss his bus home due to his behavior. But does this approach reinforce his negative behavior and thereby increase it overtime?
Or will this approach offer Clarke the chance to self-regulate his behavior as the year goes on? If time and maturity are the keys to Clarke’s improved behavior, then this framework should be successful. We will see.