Year: 1997-1998
Month: September
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:

This is a child in a 4th grade class. The child, new to the school, has just moved here from out of state. He prints, but he will not write in cursive and becomes quite upset when asked. He says he is a lousy writer. He has good oral language skills, articulates his ideas well and talks fluently so the teacher believes he has the language abilities to do the required tasks. He refuses to write answers to longer questions or put his thoughts on paper even when the teacher works one on one with him or adjusts the goals to provide scaffolding. The teacher is frustrated with his refusal even to try. She is concerned about his confidence level and his feelings of failure. She doesn't want to push too hard as she thinks much of it is a self-esteem problem. Recently his behavior, impulsiveness, blurting out, rebelling, have resulted in other kids "getting on his case." The teacher has checked his cum file and talked to his parents. There seems to be some history of behavior problems in his previous school.

A teacher might feel limited because of the lack of past teacher contact, input and support to find out what strategies worked with this student in the past. A teacher might feel angry because the student is not doing what is asked, but also frustrated because she doesn't have enough time to help, and limited because things haven't changed even with her attempts. A teacher might feel frustrated and a little angry because several attempts have been made to accommodate the student. You'd want to "get to the bottom" of what was causing the behavior. A teacher in such an event might feel frustrated because they would want to provide the best learning situation for each child in their class and this one is not working. A teacher may feel frustrated and obligated to help the student, but there is never enough time and it would be so helpful to have information from past teachers. A teacher might feel limited because of the lack of information about the student and frustrated because you want to help this child but he will not let you. A teacher might feel frustrated to know that the child has the ability to do the work, but the teacher doesn't have time to intervene enough. It's difficult to figure out the influencing factors. A teacher might feel frustrated to know that the child has the ability to do the work, but the teacher doesn’t have time to intervene enough. It’s difficult to figure out the influencing factors. The teacher would feel frustrated because she is trying to help him one on one and its not working. A teacher might feel limited because she can only give this particular student a small amount of time before the other 27 students are cheated of her time.

Theories behind practice:
After talking with the parents to get as much information and history as possible, the child might be referred to special education for an evaluation to provide more insight into the problem and to see if this is a learning disability. Motivational issues such as fear of failure, lack of control, a sense of failure even in a new school where he had a fresh chance but senses history repeating itself may be interfering with his willingness to take risks. Activities that build his self-esteem, or provide alternatives for him to succeed such as tape recording his assignments or stories, using the computer to word process, having an older student write what he dictates, might help him to build his confidence and complete the learning tasks. He might even be used as an “expert” in an area where he is successful (the teacher reports computers) can be used to increase self-esteem. If the student is feeling a lost of control over his life with so many changes that have happened, he can be given choices in how he does his assignments as suggested above, or even some choice in how he responds to the assignments....using other methods of communication, i.e., pictures. If all else fails, apply tough love. Tell the child that “This is how it is in this classroom and this is what is expected of you. You have gotten help, now you are expected to try.”

Impact on others:

Because this child has experienced so many dramatic events (moving to a new state, a new school, new neighborhood, etc.) he needs to feel that his learning environment is safe and that the teacher is there to help him succeed. His reality might have been that he thought that with a new school he would automatically be successful and he found out that possibly he was behind the rest of the class and his previous problems followed him. The student might be afraid of being judged by the kids and the teachers and feel he is not able to live up to their expectations, so why try. He may be trying to get attention because he is not getting it at home with all the stress this kind of move can make on a family.

The teacher involved in the case study felt supported by her colleagues and was feeling good about having some other ideas to try with the student. A number of people discussed that passive resistance, rebellion and motivation continue to be part of the challenges of teaching and were a part of several of the incidents reported.