Bop! “I need an attitude adjustment,” Loren announced, as he hit himself on the head to give the adjustment.
“I smell your attitude, and it’s stinky!” Rachel informed her older sister.
Today I had a serious chat with my student, Calvin, regarding his work. He has been performing very poorly, is very messy, and getting many answers incorrect. His head was hanging, and he didn’t seem to care. I asked him to look at me, which he did rather defiantly. So I also addressed his attitude. When I commented, “It seems like you don’t care,” he sullenly replied, “I don’t.” I had already figured that out! Now I need to figure out how to help him and how to get him to care. I was concerned about his attitude, as he didn’t want to complete his work, he wouldn’t smile, he was grouchy, and he was putting minimal effort into school. He glared at me and challenged my authority.
I wanted to help Calvin to be happy and to be successful with school. How could I do that? I tried to find any underlying problems. Is he feeling insecure? Is he physically well? Is he dealing with problems outside of school? Is he feeling unsuccessful in his work and studies, so he’s putting on an attitude of defiance and unconcern to cover up his feelings? Does Calvin have social problems?
I didn’t know the answers to all of my questions, but I could observe Calvin and his interactions and start to find some answers. I see that he has friends and is playing soccer at recess; he is involved with the other children and not seeming to be left out. (I wonder if he is responding to negative peer pressure? I don’t think so – he seems to be a leader. I’ll have to watch that he is a good leader!) He is struggling in some of his lessons. This may be affecting his attitude.
I will try to build on his interests and find a motivation for him. I decide to “call in the reinforcements” so I communicate with Calvin’s parents. We conference and they set up a motivational plan at home and talk to him about his attitude.
Calvin’s attitude did improve when he realized that teacher and parents were working together to help him. Having a motivation boost with the plan at home helped him in his work and I think the improved work helped improve his attitude.
Obviously, the teacher will not be “bopping” children on the head to give attitude adjustments, so how we can help students to improve their attitudes?
- Pray over the child. Sometimes I stand beside a child and pray silently for him. I might put my hand on his shoulder and pray silently. I sometimes sit at a child’s desk (or stand beside it) before school and pray for that child and for me as I work with her. I pray aloud with a child. One day after we had worked through a behavior challenge, I asked Brenda, “Shall I pray for you?” She quickly agreed, and we stood in the hallway and I prayed for her and that seemed to relieve her. I pray for wisdom in working with the children. I may need to pray for myself to have the right attitude about the child.
- Consult with parents. Ask for their input. Discuss what is motivating for their child. What is important to their child? What does the child say about school? Come up with a plan to help the child. For Calvin, whenever he earned a certain grade on his spelling test he received a sticker at home. When he had filled his chart with stickers, he could go shopping for a favorite hobby item. He was excited about the plan and kept me up-to-date on how it was going. He let me know when he was going shopping.
- Give the child a special job or responsibility. This helps the student feel needed and gives him a special role. I purposely asked Chad if he would be in charge of emptying the pencil sharpener. It was not a big job, but gave him some importance and he was pleased that he was the only one who had that job. When the sharpener was full of shavings, I would call him over to take care of it.
- Build relationships with students. One day I noted, “Vernon has been very cooperative and thoughtful to me this afternoon. He was one of the culprits this morning (in a scissors incident!) He has not had a good attitude some days and has not been respectful to me. I think what made the difference is that he had lunch with me today! He chatted and asked questions, and I said if he wanted to share anything he could, and he told me some things. He wondered if I get lonely when I eat by myself. Is that why I invite them to eat with me? =) It made me realize again the importance of building relationships and listening.”
- Is the attitude problem a heart issue? This may require prayer and asking for wisdom to deal with it.
- I need to examine myself. Maybe a change of heart is required in me. Some children are more challenging to work with. Maybe I need to have more patience, love, and understanding for this child. As I pray for the child and myself, and purpose to care for her, I can have an attitude of love for her.
CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt