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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

But I don't like him!

What do you do when your students complain in front of the class about being put in a group with another student? When nobody in the class likes one student because of his problematic behaviour in the past? When several parents threatened to remove their children from the school because of this one "difficult" child?

John (fictional name) is an extremely bright eight-year-old, very short for his age, but intellectually more advanced than many of the nine and ten year olds in his class. Prone to aggressive and challenging behaviour in previous years, John is, after the first two lessons, working fine. There has been no particularly conflictive behaviour on his part, except when provoked by another student.

However, nobody wants to work with John. Of course, John realises this and therefore reacts to their lack of friendliness and kindness with more of the same.

It is going to be hard to undo several years of negative experience that the other children have had with John, but hopefully not impossible. I would like to start straightaway by introducing games or activities that will help integrate John more and foster a positive and kind classroom atmosphere. However, I'm not sure how to go about it. If the children were younger, I feel it would be easier. These children are around ten years old. If you have any ideas or experience of this type of problem, I'd love to hear about how you attempted to solve it.

Thanks in advance :)

6 comments:

  1. Hi Michelle,

    I can sympathise with your situation and John's. In the summer, I coordinated (not taught) a youth program with mixed cultures of students 12 - 18. There was one class with three Russian boys and one Hong Kong boy (12) that really didn't get along. It was apparently because of the HK boy's antagonisation. It provoked the Russian boys, who reacting with snide comments and dirty looks.

    It was an incredibly difficult and perpetual problem for most of the 4 weeks. What did tend to have some softening effect was a field trip to a playground to play tag, parachute and other organised games. During this time, it seemed to demonstrate what various kids were good at and enjoyed, which allowed the Russian boys and the HK boy to recognise value in each other as partners.

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  2. Michelle have you met John's family to find out what background is he coming from? I had one case like you three yrs ago. He had some family issues and I tried to gain his trust. It worked to some extend. Because of the respect I was giving him he was trying to give back and as a result he started to get along with others. He was gr6. I would suggest you talk to John on everyday bases and remind him of the importance to get along with others. Gain his trust and respect. Might work Good luck

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  3. Thank you both for taking the time to comment and for your great advice!

    Seburnt, I have experienced your situation in summer schools too, where the problem tends to be that like animals, the children stay in packs and are reluctant to mix with others, especially those who are lacking social skills. Problems can also be caused by racism and xenophobia, but I think this is due to a "fear" of the unknown. In this particular case it is a fear of the known! I like the idea of games that can show how each child can bring something positive to the group. In this case physical games are not really possible due to lack of space, but if you have any suggestions of classroom based team-building games, let me know. I would also like to do something on the lines of "respect your classmates" to stop the constant "dissing" of other children's likes. Any ideas?

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  4. Hi Fereydoon,

    I know John's family quite well and there are some issues there which I won't go into here. The main problem is a lack of support between mum and dad. I decided to start the year from scratch, as if John had never had behavioural problems in the past and, at the moment the problem is more the attitude of the others towards him (based on past experience - some have been together in the class for several years). Do you have any ideas about how I might foster respect between all the pupils? I'd like to do something where the class recognise when somebody is trying hard or working/behaving well. I have some "student of the week" cards which may come in use, maybe the class could decide who gets the card?

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  5. Hi Michelle,

    A difficult situation to deal with and one of the big reasons why teaching kids is such a challenge.

    I think in this situation, you need to focus on the other kids as it's clear that their attitude needs to change. One thing I have done is to pick groups randomly - it's difficult to resist the urge to 'balance' the stronger and weaker students but it does give a chance for everyone to work together and show each other what they can do. Another idea would be to rotate groups constantly so everyone gets the chance to work with each other at some point during the lesson or week. I would also be on the watch out for any problems and try to nip them in the bud, perhaps with the odd chat outside the class if I feel it necessary.

    It takes time but you'll get there in the end!

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  6. An idea I have is to have a RESPECT pot. I have a tub of marbles and was thinking of finding some kind of small pot into which I would place a marble every time somebody did or said something respectful or kind. When the pot is full, there would be some kind of treat. Do you think this could work with kids of this age?

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