Help for the “troubled schoolchildren”
Almost every educational leader reads on a first-name basis with the most difficult parents in the state: Schools are starting to see and catch so many parents attempting to pull their kids out of academic programs and sending them to alternative programs in droves. These “special programs” are usually part of the schools’ normal program but after school, and are designed to suit the needs of children who are struggling.
Parents have observed that these programs are useful for kids but are often oversubscribed. Why the oversupply? It is not surprising that parents – even those with good intentions – are eager to keep their kids involved in educational practices even if the administration is uncomfortable. In most cases, it is simply not worth it for the school to shell out the financial resources to provide something extra that the child doesn’t actually need. In other cases, the parents have been simply pushing the boundaries of their son’s and daughter’s school when they aren’t authorized to do so.
Many of these parents believe that the school isn’t doing enough to take care of the children (whether through special programs or not) or that the kids are physically or emotionally abused at school. Ironically, school administrators have more power than parents to help a child, so they should be pushing their limits and doing everything in their power to make these children’s lives more manageable.
Schools are facing an ever-escalating turnover rate of students, and we have seen this consistently over the past several years. Students leave for good reasons and for bad reasons, and in more serious situations, there are dangerous situations that can be destructive to a child’s life.
These students are typically disruptive, sometimes violent, or have disabilities or mental health issues. Many of these situations could be prevented by taking the proper approaches to the very behavior problems that we are dealing with so that these children can be best served.
Establishing common sense approaches to classroom management and behavioral problems is an area that doesn’t get a lot of attention and often isn’t perceived as a priority. For most school districts, including Orange County, adopting and enforcing behavioral policies isn’t a top priority. It’s the Parent’s Bill of Rights.
It would be nice to see school districts and individual schools working together to consider the outcome for their students rather than constantly reacting to demands from parents. Without the necessary environment of autonomy and freedom to work out behavioral issues, a child’s education may suffer as a result. That is not our best interest and children will suffer as a result.
If you are considering alternative programs for your child, these are a few simple ways to think about your choices, in addition to educational programs.
1. Be clear about what you expect from a behavior intervention. Educate yourself about what is involved in a disruptive classroom activity. Understand that these kinds of programs are not designed for the every day, when the student would be more involved in the class, or the classroom can’t support the activity in a good way.
For example, if the student has a letter mark on their hands or they are regularly checking their phone or don’t have their manners.
2. Understand whether or not a student needs a time out or something completely out of their control. Has the child been wandering around the hallways on their own doing whatever they wanted and if so, when, what situation warranted the staff being called to address the problem?
3. Understand that these approaches don’t work if a child does not want to comply. Even if the classroom has been set up to handle behavior problems, most of the time the child is going to be resistant.
4. Be realistic. In most situations, it is much better to not do anything than take an action that will be misconstrued by the child and make things worse.
One thing that the school can do to help is to communicate their willingness to work with families in their efforts to correct problems. It’s difficult to expect parents to understand or to intervene in the situation if they are not aware of how their child’s behavior is going to be handled in the future.
5. Don’t settle for a single approach. An excellent way to make these programs work is to construct a wide-ranging approach that will address all of the behavior that needs to be addressed. Conduct needs to be addressed from a number of sources, not just at the classroom level.
If you are the parent of a disruptive child, an alternative program that will assist in raising this child’s academic results and behavior shouldn’t be the end of your concerns.