Optimized-Assistance-teamwork-puzzle-connectionBehavioral Challenges in the Classroom

A growing opportunity

Melodee DeCoteau


Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow(Anthony J. D’Angelo.)

My life has not been without stagnant periods of time. Upon reflection, I realize that my stagnation was brought about by moving through day after day, week after week completing mundane tasks reminiscent of a stepford wife. I was merely existing not growing. Then I went back to college. I don’t know if I needed to “develop” a passion for learning as D’Angelo’s quote states but rather my passion was unleashed. I have not looked back. I learn. I grow.

My passion could become stagnant again, I suppose. Teaching can become mundane, stagnant. That route is not an option for me. The routine of semester after semester doing the same subject material will always be challenged by my students individuality. How can I reach the guy in the back of the classroom doodling in his notebook? How can I turn a student’s negative attitude into a positive one? How do I deal with disruption and counterproductive behavior? The answer is different with each new student, each new semester.

The scientific method has been a successful tool for scientists and me as well. I take that approach in my classroom to keep myself from stagnation. Observation is my key. That boy doodling, is he listening in his own way to what I’m saying or has he totally zoned out? Why is the young girl blurting out negative remarks that cause the rest of the class discomfort? How can I diffuse the constant glances the class sends to a peer that is physically twitching? I watch the class dynamics and work towards increasing my chances of making my classroom an environment that maximizes the number of successful students.

The workshop on Autism Spectrum Disorder allowed me the opportunity to increase my effectiveness in helping these challenged students. While I am not allowed to know a specific diagnosis of my students that are documented with SAIL, I am aware of some issue that might mean additional effort on my part to see the student through the semester. One students account will describe how the workshop has improved my ability to be more effective for future students. Here is his story.

The class began early morning in the spring semester. Students filtered in with their coffees and cell phones in hand, finding seats and resigning themselves quietly to what lay ahead. I stood center room readying myself for introductions to begin the semester. In walks a young man, loud, haphazard and unaware of anything but finding a seat front and center of the room that is already pretty much full. He pulls his pack from his shoulder and forcefully plops it on the desk, papers spilling out. Then he flops himself down on the chair. The class is staring by this time, he continues doing what he obviously needs to do seemingly oblivious of his surrounds. At this point, I am already aware my semester was not going to be boring!

I think in those first few moments of observing him and the rest of the class, I knew working outside the box to make the class dynamics work that semester would be in order. He was smart, showed that right off with his comments and questions. I intervened many times, asking him to please wait so I could finish my thought before he contributed his comments. Some of his comments were off the wall, they made the class respond with head shakes and grunts. It was sometimes hard for me to counterbalance the situation with a positive spin. His quiz and exam scores put him in the top percentile of the class but his homework and time management on assignments were terrible. I worked with him on this issue, seeing him after almost every class to make sure he had written down what needed to be complete for our next class. But he would write this information on any piece of paper he had handy and by the looks of his book bag I was never confident that it would ever be seen again. I tried, he tried, we made it through the semester.

The Autism workshop has taught me there are more concrete methods to help such individual behaviors. I don’t feel negligent but there are more effective approaches. Instead of merely asking him to write assignments and dates down, I could make sure it has been written down in a dedicated location. It takes time and I am busy but it is the challenge of my job that I desire, so… why not?

Another aspect of the workshop that really impacted me was the fact that I do not have to figure it all out by myself. The resources, the people are there for me to be more effective for students requiring additional support. I am not sure why I felt the need to do this job on my own. Pride? Fear of being considered unable? I don’t know. Therefore, the workshop was an epiphany. I do not need to feel anything but fairness and dedication in aiding a student with additional learning requirements by seeking the advice and expertise of the professionals available.

I have managed to understand the merit of learning how to better meet the needs of challenged students by working through my own professional philosophy of education . The workshop has prepared me to face upcoming behavioral differences in my students with confidence. I learn. I grow and so do my students.

Melodee DeCoteau


Works Cited

Anthony J. D’Angelo, retrieved 8/29/15