Whether the child is battling trauma, mental illness, or an emotional/behavior disorder; the request they participate in the traditional classroom setting is merely a set up for their own failure. Traditionally, we place them in an environment where they cannot succeed, then further shame them for their lack of compliance and success, and provide consequence after consequence at no fault of their own.
What if, we provide an environment that goes with their grain, with plenty of access to their own choice for regulating emotions, working productively, and managing their behaviors.
- Flexible seating: Clear expectations and a variety of choices across many types of activities.
- Allow students to pick a lap desk, podium, wobble stool, beach chair, floor rocker, or bobble cushion during any and all work times.
- Calming corner and tools: offer a place to go, self-regulate, or use in their space to quietly regroup.
- Offer the arts, brain teasers, or doodles for older students. Quiet sensory objects, clay, cut up pool noodles, pipe cleaners, fidgets, coloring designs for others. Engage a quiet voice for students where they can go and regroup solo practicing skills they need throughout their lives.
- Give up a few rules: Define a few expectations. Then let go of the rest. If a student has problem, messes up, arrives late, acts out; try waiting till after class and asking them how they are doing. Try putting off the need for 100% compliance and show compassion. They may have made a misstep this time, but with the correct and subsequent supports moving forward they will be less likely to do so again.
We are not in the business to police, dictate, or regulate. We are the business of caring, supporting, and maybe a bit of guiding along the way. What if we let go of school rules just a little bit, and actually catered to what they really need on the insides?