You are here

When the Honeymoon is Over: A Look at Behavior in the Classroom and What You Can Do About it

When the Honeymoon is Over: A Look at Behavior in the Classroom and What You Can Do About it

An Interview by Alison Baird

This time of year brings many calls to our parent advisor line at PEAK. The vast majority of issues are on one topic: behavior. Today we bring you an interview with Parent Advisor Shirley Swope on what happens after the excitement of the new school year dies with suggestions on how you can best support your child or student.

What is the honeymoon period in schools?

“In education, the honeymoon period begins when school starts and everyone is hopeful that the year is going to go well. Teachers are getting to know students, and students are becoming familiar with new teachers. Everyone begins to learn new routines and settle into them.”

What goes wrong?

“The honeymoon sometimes ends around this time in October. One common thing we notice is that teachers begin to witness challenging behaviors in the classroom because IEP supports are not transferring from last year to the new school year. IEP supports are meant to follow the child into the next grade, but what often happens is that teachers try to get to know the child without any of the supports. That’s when everything goes wrong. Everyone gets mad at one another; parents are frustrated with teachers, teachers are frustrated with disruptive behavior, and the child is left to fail. Supports are instituted for a reason and letting the child fail in order to prove the need for of supports is senseless. Moreover, when you have a child who struggles and then fails, it puts that child on a downward trend and they then need additional support to come out of it.”

So while supports are defined in IEPs to ensure students experience successful learning in the classroom, another aspect is that teachers often lack supports to recognize why behaviors are happening. In addition to ensuring that student support needs are met, we must ensure that teachers have necessary tools, training, and resources. Everyone needs to be set up for success!

As a Parent Advisor, what kinds of calls have you been receiving lately?

“We’ve been receiving a lot of calls that reflect this trend. Students are getting suspended for behaviors, and schools are not following IEPs. Therefore, it is now repair time. We need to get children back into stable routines and back to the supports they need to be successful.”

How do we do this?

1.  Improve communication. Everyone on the IEP team (families, educators, providers and support staff) must understand their respective role within the team for the best interest of the student. IEP review meetings are helpful to analyzing supports and behaviors that work.

2. Move forward and move on from a notion that ‘I already had this same conversation about what my child needs last year.’ Unfortunately, families often have to  re-explain next year and then years to come because each school year comes with new teachers. Parents are the only constant. So although it may be frustrating, families need to suck it up and say ‘I do know my child and this is how to support them so they are successful.’

3. Ask for a functional behavior assessment (FBA) for your student. This assessment doesn’t just look at a child’s behavior but analyzes the child’s environment. How does the student talk to the teacher? The teacher to student? Student to student?  Behavior doesn’t happen in a dark room, so it is important to understand how, when, and why a child is expressing certain behaviors. If we can look at that big picture without labelling and putting blame on teachers or kids, then we can get down to what is truly going on. We can find the appropriate supports.

4.  Ask your school about positive behavior supports. Although all schools are required to institute them, they sometimes fall to the backburner. Positive recognition for desired student behaviors by teachers and staff members has been proven to positively impact student behavior.”

Thank you for your time, Shirley. Any final words?

“Children who don’t fit our system naturally struggle, and it’s easy for us as a society to label them as troublemakers or naughty children. But let’s look at how we can move beyond labeling and blaming in order to best support children in the classroom environment.”

Contact PEAK Parent Center at peakparent.org, 719-531-9400 to speak with a trained parent advisor in Colorado. For assistance outside of Colorado go to:   https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/ to find the parent training and information center in your state.