Some students go through struggles we just can’t imagine. Sometimes just making it through an entire day can be extremely difficult. This often makes school an unhappy place for them. And despite the fact that we do everything we can possibly think of to help these students, there are still just a few who we can’t seem to reach. But we never stop trying!
I recently wrote a piece titled Five Tips For Helping Angry Children Have Better Days. In the post I mentioned that one way to help kids calm down when they are angry is by allowing them some time to play. This strategy has worked with one student in particular. But recently I have begun to realize that he is taking advantage of this play time.
As of late, he has had to leave the room several times a day because he is unable to control his anger. When this happens someone has to remove him from the room. He is always reluctant to come and oftentimes it is a struggle to get him to leave his classroom. Once we finally get to my office I allow him to play with a large bin of Legos. This always seems to settle him down.
The problem is that, despite the fact that the Legos are able to calm him down, he is still having to leave the room several times a day. Today my principal, who has taught me much in the short time that I have worked with her, suggested having him earn the opportunity to play. This was a great idea! I was a little worried at first, but my strategy of allowing him to play whenever he became angry definitely wasn’t changing his behavior.
So I called him in and explained the new arrangement. I created a makeshift chart in about two minutes. Every twenty minutes he was on task and being respectful he would earn a star. I told him that he had to earn five stars in order to get to come play with the Legos. I walked him back to class and then quickly explained the chart to his teacher. I was hopeful but I was also a little worried. What if he didn’t earn five stars?
I checked on him after about an hour.
He had earned one star.
I saw him at lunch.
He had earned three stars.
The rest of my day was quite busy, so to be quite honest, I completely forgot about the student and the two stars that he had left to earn. With about thirty minutes left in the day I stepped out of my office to make my final rounds for the day. As I did, I saw out of the corner of my eye a student running down the hallway.
“Please stop running”, were the words out of my mouth. And then I saw who it was.
Chart in hand.
Five star stickers.
And smiling ear to ear.
It was Lego time!
I was so proud of him. But I think more than anything he was proud of himself. Maybe he just needed something to work for. Maybe that is the case for many of our students. I don’t know for sure. But I do know that he played with those Legos like it was the time he had ever seen them.
And that’s not all that was different. As he played with him, he was humming and singing softly to himself. The way kids, and sometimes adults, do when they have that feeling of complete and utter joy. I only wish I could have recorded it.
I just realized something else that was different this time.
I didn’t have to struggle to remove him from class.
Today he ran!