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I'm up to the challenge!

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Thank you Dr. Mendler for sharing this story. Mr. Spriggs sounds like an amazing teacher, and if I were a student I would love to be in his class! I am eager to try the experiment you suggested in my classroom. A teacher's attitude is so important, and I want my students to know that I respect and value every single one of them, regardless of their academic progress or behavior in the classroom. I am hopeful that building strong relationships with my students will help to improve their behavior and academic success, and I'm determined to view difficult situations as challenges that will make me a better teacher and person.

Life Skills Support Teacher

The Mendlet/Curwin school of

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The Mendlet/Curwin school of behavior management seems rooted in the post-WW2 self-help-book anti-behaviorist theories and practices that social workers favor.

In contrast, I am very much a Lee Canter advocate and I have implemented his practices for years with great success.

The bottom line is that most all students, at-risk or not, crave structure and seek the guidance of authority figures. We are a species that needs to be led, preferably by a figure (or figures) imbued with "powers" or capabilities perceived to exceed our own. Our law codes indicate that we need and require structure.

A good school with a sound common behavioral management philosophy practiced with consistency is the best remedy for at-risk kids, especially those diagnosed with moderate emotional disabilities.

So when I read about these chi-chi neo-behaviorist theories that believe kids need LESS of everything societies have accepted as norms for centuries, I have to laugh, because I know that one or more peer reviewed manuscripts have worked their way into the mass consciousness. They ultimately succeed at little but padding authors' bank accounts with future book royalties and speaker fees.

Journalist specializing in educational technology and home/school tech

Take a chance

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I admit that it has been a few years since I was teaching at risk kids, but at that point I started when I was 21, weighed just over 100 pounds and wasn't going to intimidate anyone. What I learned was that living up to my word and being innovative and trying different approaches with different classes and individual students won me hearts and eventually minds. I was also astonished by how many of my students commented that they were not used to being treated that way.

I don't think Dr. Mendler wants to turn you into a social worker, just someone who is willing to take a chance on a kid every once and a while by meeting them half way.

Journalist specializing in educational technology and home/school tech

Would Love to Send This Article

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Last week my oldest child who is teaching at an Ivy League university related how one of her colleagues had spoken up in a meeting with the Special Services coordinator saying he did not want any students with LD accommodation placed in his classes because they weren't worth the extra challenge. I'd love to send him a copy of this article, but then he probably already thinks he knows everything about teaching. As for my son who is dyslexic and at another university, I just wish once in his school career someone had treated him like this and asked what would make a difference for him instead of acting like he was such a bother because sometimes they had to give him extended time on an exam or other slight accommodations.

I'm Okay, You're Okay

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It's a matter of remembering that you are the adult. You gain no status from defeating a student in a power struggle. You stand to gain much in creating a relationship where that struggle will never happen, or will rapidly defuse itself on the odd occasion it does. Choosing the correct words, taking responsibility for misunderstandings and never leaving the student powerless all pay off in the long run. It's a sign of wisdom, not weakness to realize there's nothing to be won.

Life Skills Support Teacher

I reject that it is necessary

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I reject that it is necessary for a properly trained teacher to throw themselves on their sword in front of a student because their behavioral management strategies haven't worked. It is possible that some students, based on their past behavioral conditioning and life experience, will not be reachable or be capable of reform until that little light goes off in their heads on their own. Some kids have to reach their personal epiphanies on their own. Typically this comes with age and maturity, in my experience.

Tough street kids abhor weakness and if a teacher appears weak or irresolute before them then that teacher will not be respected under any circumstance.

And Dr. Mendler, I believe you are expecting teachers to act like social workers with at-risk kids. This is a mistake. The training to be a teacher or a social worker couldn't be anymore different.

What I learned in those classes 'from hxxx'

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About every 4 years when teaching non-academic math, I'd find myself with a class where nothing worked and I felt as helpless as a first year teacher. Interestingly, when I had cancer and was going through chemotherapy I had to thank the 'tough' classes and kids over and over. What they did was give me the knowledge that I could endure and even thrive and mover forward better than before.

This is so true! I have

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This is so true! I have found the most useful phrase in dealing with difficult students to be: "I believe in treating people the way I want to be treated, and judging from the way you're treating me, I must have hurt your feelings somehow. Can you tell me when I did that, so I can make it right?" It stops student attitude in its tracks, makes them think about how I treat them, and usually opens a dialogue. If I have hurt their feelings somehow, they find a voice. If they're mad about something else, and I'm the tackling dummy, they usually step back, rethink their attitude, and tell me what the problem is. It's been very effective - kids want to be heard and respected, but they don't always have a voice or know how to earn that respect.

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