November 11, 2007

Suggestions for working with 'difficult' students

Jeff Dustin, positive psychologist, read something I wrote and asked me this: "I work with students with severe emotional and behavioral disorders. It seems like progress is imperceptibly slow and the burnout rate at my job is measured in weeks to months. I wonder what steps a solution focus could bring to help staff cope better with the daily grind."
I belief the solution-focused approach may indeed offer some interesting and useful things. Here are some suggestions:


  1. Coert,
    I have no idea how to pronounce your it like Kurt? What a rich and thoughtful reply to my comment. Yes, these leads are very helpful and what surprised me most was the counterintuitive nature of the solutions-focus.

    The fact is that when we are stressed, we are least liked to focus on what we want and instead react much more like an animal to the stressor. That doesn't seem conducive to a solution-orientation.

    The biggest problem that I see in my day-to-day work with my students is that staff don't work as an integrated team, but instead have their own approaches to reducing the students' problem behavior. This creates a messy maze of rules, routines and procedures that the children don't understand and makes our classrooms even more chaotic.

    Here's an example: Jane is a take charge older woman who believes that firmness is essential in teaching kids to behave themselves. All should be held to the same standard, regardless of disability or individual circumstances.

    Bridget is also an older woman and very outspoken. She believes that Jane is an old witch and that Jane's methods are unscientific and out-of-date. Instead she gives choices to the children, in fact, an abundance of choices. Bridget helps the kids process their feelings even at the expense of classroom time.

    If you were a child in the classroom with Bridget and Jane, how might you feel? I, myself, would feel dazed and confused by the jumbled methods that these teachers are using to get me to act properly.

    It just seems the staff can't get the team to work as a whole unit.

  2. Dear Jeff,
    Thanks. Yes, SF has some very counterintuitive elements in it. Take for instance the no blame approach to anti bullying. Your reflex would be to punish and blame the bully. But in this approach there is no blame at all.

    In general in SF conversations there is a attitude of patience and understanding. At the same, however there is constant clarity and focus on desired outcomes. This make it less easy than it may look at a first glance. However, building the skill is worthwhile.

    I can imagine that the fact that staff at your school don't work as an integrated team makes it hard for teachers and students to understand what is expected of them. I have heard about this kind of problems in schools before and I have heard before how hard and confusing it can be sometimes.

    Have you ever been able to influence this situation in the right direction, even if it was just a tiny little bit?


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner