Year: 1996-1997
Month: October
Leader: Group C

Situation/Case Study:

A sixth grade student is not turning in any of his work. He appears to be "just there." He is not assertive nor is he disruptive. He has none of the needed tools-- no pencil, paper, etc. Last year the boy was on Ritalin but the family does not want the medication to resume. The boy's parents work alternating schedules making a family conference difficult to arrange. A meeting with his father was arranged but the meeting did not take place. The teacher is very concerned because she feels that the boy has the ability to meet with some success in school. But she is unsure of how to motivate him.

A teacher in this situation might... 1. begin to focus on the importance of medication challenging the parent rather than further investigating the student interest. 2. feel extremely frustrated because the effort s/he makes is negated by the lack of parental support. 3. feel alone because of the polarization of teacher and parent. 4. feel frustrated and stop working with problem in order to show the parents that the student needs medication. 5. feel frustrated because the teacher knows that the student is capable of comprehending the material but not capable enough to be organized. 6. feel as though s/he can't do any more and that s/he has tried everything. 7. feel frustration, hopelessness and anger (in different degrees) when she are unable to help her student be successful. 8. feel helpless simply because everything tried has ended with little or no results. 9. feel inadequate in that s/he don't feel able to accomplish what s/he wants to do. 10. feel frustrated because she is trying to help this boy to achieve at the level he is capable of but with no apparent results.

Theories behind practice:
Belonging. Maslow's needs hierarchy. Importance of parental support (Comer, Epstein). Whole child theories (effects of physiological factors). Positive reinforcement. Development psychology. Perspectives on the use of medication for behavior control.

Impact on others:
1. Unresponsive student. 2. Unresponsive parents. 3. Feelings of helplessness on part of Teacher.

1.The expectations between home and school need to become more closely aligned. 2.The student needs a more individualized approach. 3.The teacher needs to be more nurturing with the boy. 4. The teacher needs to be more direct about pointing out positive activities for the boy. 5. The teacher needs to talk with the parents and create a more specific action plan. 6.The teacher needs to try to relate to the child on a more personal level, find out his interests, hobbies. 7. Only one teacher should be contacting the parents.

Some of the group members seemed a little stumped about what incident they should share; some didn't feel that they had a new incident. I encouraged them to share their previous incident as it had evolved since our last meeting. When I asked which incident the group would like to discuss, the teller of the "Off Task Student" incident quickly asked that we discuss her story. She was very anxious to have the support of the RPG as she tried to problem-solve this situation. This time the group attempted to cite theories that were influencing their practice and decision making. I was a little skeptical about whether we would be able to do this effectively. In fact, this part of the process worked very smoothly. I think the group was encouraged about their own level of expertise in this area. The research theories that the group cited as influencing their teaching decisions seem to also influence how they feel as teachers. The theory (Sagor, Werner, etc.,) that describes the importance of a person's sense of belonging to a group that was offered as an explanation for the "Off Task" student's reluctance to comply with the class norms also may be influencing the teacher. Since it was a new teacher who told the story, it may be her own lack of confidence that she "belongs" to this group called teachers that is making her feel so unsure. All of the literature tells teachers that a strong, collaborative relationship with parents is essential for school success. This teacher may be questioning the significance of this research for her situation. To her, the parents may represent more of an impediment to the solution of the problem than a source of help. For the next meeting, one of the other group members (a mentor teacher) is going to facilitate the discussion. I was not sure that I would be able to entice anyone into taking this on but he seemed very anxious to try it out. I think this will add another interesting dimension to the experience, especially if the facilitation steadily moves among the group members. At the conclusion of the meeting, one of the group members suggested that we follow-up on the previous meeting's events. So, beginning with the next meeting, we will start with an update by the teller of the previous month's incident. The group is very anxious to hear whether the process is actually producing some positive results in the classroom (I am, too.)!