10 Chapters
Medium 9781934009253

Chapter 3: Attitudes and Beliefs

Richard Curwin Solution Tree Press ePub

Our best students reinforce our belief that what we do works.
Our worst students challenge us to grow. We need both.

Imagine you are in the classroom and you ask Anwar a question related to the lesson. Anwar smirks and says, “Who the hell cares—this class sucks!” Li, who cannot concentrate for more than 3 minutes, decides to take a stroll in the middle of your class. His cruise around the room includes visits with others while you are trying to teach. Shelby is polite and friendly, and even participates in the class lesson occasionally. Unfortunately, she never brings her materials, is usually late, and does not do her homework. José has an extremely short fuse. You just never really know how he will react. There are hours and even days in which he is calm and focused. Then, with no warning at all, he may suddenly go over the top and throw a chair or challenge someone to fight.

Working with difficult students requires instructional and emotional preparation to meet the many challenges they present. As we have noted, there is no simple formula that can be applied in all instances. Nevertheless, certain beliefs and attitudes form the basis of methods and strategies that can help you provide difficult students with a quality education while maintaining your sanity.

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Medium 9781934009253

Chapter 1: The First “R”

Richard Curwin Solution Tree Press ePub

Discipline is less about punishing and more about teaching responsibility.

The purpose of school has been defined in many ways. School prepares students for college, jobs, and citizenship. School keeps students off the streets until they grow up. School teaches students how to think and socializes them. School teaches the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. But difficult students cannot learn the three R’s until they learn the most important R first: responsibility.

Perhaps the most fundamental and important goal of schooling is teaching the tools of responsible behavior. Virtually every school mission statement includes this concept. Unfortunately, the day-today process of discipline in most schools focuses far more on creating obedience. Although obedience is necessary for children to learn, it is in many ways the opposite of responsibility. Obedience requires students to do what they are told. Responsibility requires students to make the best decisions they can with their ability and understanding of the consequences.

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Medium 9781934009253

Chapter 7: Special Discipline Problems

Richard Curwin Solution Tree Press ePub

Making mistakes is not failing; not learning from them is.

While educators face many discipline challenges, certain specific problems warrant our special attention. Although the following three problems occur frequently, little information is available on how to handle them:

1.  Lack of motivation and its relationship to discipline

2.  Students who have trouble paying attention and the classroom problems that result

3.  The growth and influence of gangs in our schools

Students who are hard to motivate are often hard to discipline. Although it is difficult to assess which is the cause of which, the connection is clear. And the problem is growing. Our seminars are increasingly attended by educators who question what to do with students who are not prepared, will not work, and do not care. Those who are both hard to motivate and to control often make us wonder why we should bother with them at all when there are so many others who do care and do want to learn.

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Chapter 8: Frequently Asked Questions

Richard Curwin Solution Tree Press ePub

Remorse without resolution and reparation is inadequate.

While most educators ask us questions about discipline, they are looking for specific strategies and how-to-advice. Most of this book addresses important concepts relating to discipline and responsibility and includes many practical methods of prevention and intervention. Throughout this book, we have stressed our belief that there are no simple formulas for understanding the complexity of human behavior and there are no one-size-fits-all approaches to improving it. However, there are many specific strategies within the guidelines we have presented that will help educators solve some of the difficult issues we face. This chapter provides guidance on 12 of the questions we are asked most frequently by educators who work with difficult youth.

Q: My frustration as a special education teacher is that while my students make good progress in my resource classroom, many of them have difficulty adjusting to mainstream classes. Those teachers constantly complain about how irresponsible the kids are, and the kids are always complaining about how unfair the teachers are. Any suggestions?

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Chapter 2: Change Starts Within

Richard Curwin Solution Tree Press ePub

We cannot expect more of our students than we expect of ourselves. We must act the way we expect our students to behave.

If we want to work more effectively with difficult students, we must be willing to change ourselves. Although we rarely appreciate our most difficult students because of the time they take and the frustration they cause, their presence can lead to professional growth if we learn from the obstacles they throw in our way. Nothing new has been invented by people who are satisfied with the status quo. Dissatisfaction and tension caused by misbehavior can lead us to invent new approaches that could benefit all of our students. In his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Carlson (1997) suggests that instead of asking, “Why is he doing this to me?” when someone does something you do not like, ask “What is he trying to teach me?”

Difficult students do not always generate feelings of opportunity. They are frustrating and time-consuming and interfere with our efforts to teach. Even worse, they make us confront our own difficulty in changing ourselves. As we understand our struggle to change ourselves and find better ways to overcome our obstacles, we can better appreciate the difficulties our students face when they try to change. This understanding and appreciation will help us help our students.

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