Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Detention unveiled....

It appears my description of “detention” as implemented in our ED program has left the venerable Dr. John at EBD Blog “at sea”!! He’s right though, I did kind of tiptoe around it all.

See if this helps:

Today Calvin was in our crisis room, sitting at a desk in a study carrel with the counselor, discussing the incident that sent him there: when Calvin was directed to go to his desk after morning circle time, he lingered with unrestrained defiance. The other children complied, and the IA made a verbal comment complimenting one of them specifically. At that point, Calvin jumped up and ran at the complimented child, grabbed his face (yes, grabbed, with both hands, taking hold of plump cheeks and nose parts.)

The IA got there before great damage was done, separated the boys, and walked with Calvin to the crisis room. I got the great job of hugging the hurt fella and getting him the TLC he needed.

While in the crisis room, the counselor and Calvin talked a bit, and she determined he wasn’t really “available” yet to be constructive. He demanded the use of a rubber ball, and when she redirected him, he bolted out the door and ran down the hall with reckless abandon. Then, fortuitously or unfortunately, Calvin tripped, fell to the carpeted floor and began to cry loudly. Our counselor helped him to his feet and walked him back to her office.

Her intervention lasted about 20 minutes more, and included a structured 5 minute time out, some time to use the putty for relaxation, and talking through a plan for next time. Our experience with Calvin is that he is highly anxious, often thinks irrationally, and takes a long time to truly settle down. So when he reentered the classroom, he sat at a desk near the coat closet, a bit away from the group. I set a visual timer for 15 minutes, and went over the expectations with him: “No talking or getting up. Draw or read quietly if you choose. Use this time to show us you are ready to put on your listening ears and come back to the group.”

With a minor blip in the routine—Calvin got up to sharpen his pencil, and twice called out to me—he completed his detention time successfully, was heartily invited back to the group where he immediately went to the other boy and apologized/hugged him.

Those extra minutes at the desk really work for most of our kids. Traditional short timeouts are often just not enough time for them to physically settle enough to get back to the stimulating classroom environment. The trick is to find the right balance of extended time so effectiveness is not diminished.

I hope this is a bit clearer. It’s a process, one created by caring and respectful teachers over several years time. It’s really not a detention, more like a last phase of recovery in the crisis cycle. But it works. Targeted behaviors are reduced. Kids are successfully returned to class and instruction. If it didn’t, we would change the procedure, find another way. That’s key to being effective, right?!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Can detention really help?

At least bi weekly, we of the ED staff meet together for something we call "Collegial Support". We brainstorm about our students, always with an eye toward improving our approach to instruction and to behavior management. It's a cool forum for supporting each other AND making school a more successful experience for our challenging students.

Recently, an administrator questioned the implementation of a teacher's detention policy, and that got us all to thinking about the value of using detention as part of our continuim of strategies. Because the first step to working through questions about policy is to clearly define and describe, I decided to put to writing my use of detention in my classroom. Here is a copy:

DETENTION Policy and Procedures

Detention is the last phase of a multi-step intervention strategy designed to address dangerous /unsafe behaviors. It is the period of time after a child has moved through the crisis cycle, and is ready to demonstrate behaviors incompatible with the negative, inappropriate behavior previously noted.

Because our emotionally labile students often need more time than the average child to truly settle down, the designated detention time (15-30 minutes depending on the child) is necessary to ensure their success in the next activity.

Unsafe behavior is defined in terms of potential for injury. When a child throws a lego to the ground in frustration, and it is determined that the child was not attempting to injure another, that behavior is not generally deemed “unsafe”. The same lego piece hurled across the room with the apparent goal of striking another person, is, indeed, a dangerous behavior. Moreover, the second behavior, even if it does not hit its mark, works to make the overall climate FEEL unsafe, and we often keep this in mind as we address concerns.

Detention is always part of an intervention strategy directed toward returning the child safely to the classroom setting. As a phase of the de-escalation process, it is child-centered; that is, it meets the immediate needs of a previously out of control child. Detention time provides a generally quieter setting for kids to settle their body/self monitor. It’s a reality: our emotionally labile students usually need more time than the average child to physically settle. There is a legitimate argument to be made for less than thirty minutes for some children (I often reduce the time for my younger students), but for the purposes of consistency and perceived fairness, we in our ED program have generally stuck to the 30 minute time block. Older children who are completing a written plan often use their 30 minutes to finish. Detention in another classroom or space often removes the child from the stimulus that caused agitation, provides a safe area to redirect their attention, and helps to re-establish boundaries. When the requirements of a detention are clearly explained and adhered to, children are likely to experience a reduction of anxiety. Self-monitoring can become a focus, as students work to demonstrate appropriate school behavior, especially with regard to unsafe or disruptive behaviors.

It is my experience that without the clear, consistent, effective detention process, we are setting our children up for repeated failure. The full passage of detention time is one important sign that a child is truly capable of pulling himself together. The ability to demonstrate behaviors incompatible with tantruming is key to reading a child’s “emotional temperature”. Sending a child back to the challenges of class, or to the particular stresses of art, music and pe WITHOUT the full detention process behind him/her appears irresponsible.

Perhaps what is needed then, is a name change. Call it Phase 5? The final phase? Recovery? Whichever, the final phase of the de-escalation process is so much more than a consequence, and supports our goal to help students settle and return to class successfully.

As always, thanks for reading my blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's Wednesday, and I'm still not relaxed!

So it's day three of my spring break, and I am still unable to settle myself and get relaxed. Instead, I piddle around the house, plan shopping expeditions, reorganize closets, think about plans for next week.. all fun and constructive activities, yes. But my mind is still buzzing, my focus still centered on DOING, DOING,DOING.

In years past, when my kids were young, I took this week as a chance to "act as if". That is, I happily slid into the AT-HOME MOMMY mode I secretly coveted. I used the time to enjoy my kids all day long, sans daycare, and I loved it. Yes, we moved in a more relaxed manner throughout our day (no early morning rush out of the house), but real relaxation escaped me, and rightly so. It was all about the kids.

Now, #1 Son doesn't need me (work and grad school keep him busy), and Hokie Girl is wrapped up in the fun of being a high school senior (my social butterfly). This is more or less MY TIME, and I've been unable to use it to the fullest.

I've got to ask myself why.

Habit? Is it just too hard to break the cycle of doing? Are my expectations for relaxation too high?

Fear? Is the silence of the quiet moment too scary? In silence, will I find something I don't want to know?

A good question for another day, another vacation.

In either case, I can't help it. My thoughts wind their way back to the kids and to my teaching, even as I try to leave it all behind. This is probably a good thing. Being a teacher is, after all, something you are, not just something you do.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Provacative Message

Seen on the back bumper of a car last night:

A Child Is More Than
A Testscore