The Teacher Struggle

Reaching struggling learners in love.

The constant fiddling with their shoelaces, drop and flop on the floor, rocking their chair back and forth, or running away from the group. Know a kiddo who fits the mold for one or more of these behaviors during your day in class? And how many more can you rattle off in your head in 10 seconds? Rather than repeating yourself for what feels like the eighteenth time, how do you deal with it? Threaten a loss of reward, bribe with candy, or give up? Well, it all depends on the child.

I know, I know, you’re thinking, I don’t want to hear that again. But, it is the truth. So the sooner you can accept it (and believe me it was a difficult truth to embrace for me too, because it feels like you don’t have the time for that) the more positively you can view the situation, the better it will be for everyone.

That kid that’s in your head right now, how do you feel about them? You don’t have to say it out loud, but be honest in your mind. Do they frustrate you ? Cause you to vent to other adults? Keep you awake at night? Bring you to tears? That’s real and normal! But it’s not okay to remain there. If you want to make it in this role ( as a teacher, parent, or caregiver), you have to find it in your heart to love them each and every day! That’s your ticket to success with that kid.

You can’t think clearly without a forgiving their past. You can’t figure out what they need without a clear conscience. And you can’t move on with hopes for better outcomes without a heart full of love for them.

With a clear mind and conscience, you can make decisions with God’s strength in you. Ephesians 3:16 says “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” You’re not weak. You have the power of Christ in you! Believe that!

You may be thinking now, but that doesn’t stop them from behaving the way they do. You’re right, that only changes you, not the child. So here’s what’s next. Make simple changes with this kid. You know who they are. Don’t doubt that! Just one thing at a time; don’t overwhelm yourself OR them.

I always began with visuals. I created a visual for anything and everything that I could! It was time consuming for sure, so that’s where I can step in to help you! Remember, my experience is mostly with kids birth-age 10, with developmental ages and communication abilities typically in the lower half of that range. So my printables will be mostly fitting for those kids.

Classroom Table Visuals:

There are four parts to this product and are displayed on the trifold (triangular prism shape once created) in two different combinations. The directions for assembling the trifold are included in the download which is at the end of this post.

See slideshow below…

1) I am working for…

One side displays “I am working for…” The kiddo will first need to choose a reward to work toward. This is where your knowledge of the child comes in. Do they love technology, candy, sensory room activities, hanging out with a friend/teacher/administrator, or time to get away from the demands and relax?

I had a little guy who thrived by working toward getting to make a phone call to mom or grandma. He would get so pumped when he reached his goal! And it only took a couple minutes out of the day – much quicker than time on the iPad or playing toys. Plus, his mom or grandma were thrilled to hear from him because they knew he was experiencing success that day! AND parent rapport for the win!

If a child didn’t already have their own PECS book with choices to pick from, they could pick from my pocket chart of visuals on the wall – I don’t have these visuals included in my printable because you’ll want to have appropriate items corresponding to your setting.

Once a reward is chosen, place the picture of that reward in the blank box after the words “I am working for…”. So if I’m having a child complete their morning work binder, I would give them a star for each task they finished. For example: 1 for completing their name, 1 for the date, and 1 for the weather page. After receiving all three stars, they earn the reward.

2) Wait

The “wait” side of the trifold is a bit different. It addresses the concept of waiting which is so very difficult with little ones. How do you get tiny little bodies to understand that they need to just stand or just sit for a minute?

So it’s a reminder to a student that time is passing and they need to continue waiting until they can receive what they asked for (get up from circle time, go to recess, etc.). After instructing the student what they need to wait for, place the red circle in the first box. After some time, place the yellow circle in the next box. Finish with the green circle in the last box to communicate that time has passed and the student may finally be done waiting!

This visual works best when the student only needs to wait for a short period of time (less than 5 minutes). This could be used in combination with first/then very easily if your student needs more information about what they are waiting for.

3) Quiet mouth, quiet hands, quiet feet

One side of the trifold is simply a visual reminder that the student needs to make their body like the pictures in order to be sitting appropriately during class time. Quiet mouth, quiet hands, and quiet feet are the pictures included with their labels. I had a third grade student that this worked wonders for – she was highly distractible. All I had to do (after teaching her what the visual’s purpose was) was tap the picture when she started drifting away.

4) First/Then

The First/Then side of the visual worked best for me when I used it with a timed event. For example, first gym class, then sensory room or first assembly, then snack. I even found success using it with students with very minimal joint attention skills. I would use visuals like first sit, then snack. But it could be used for a lot of things like go potty, clean up, table work, etc.

To use this visual, place the picture of the task they need to complete after the word “first” and the reward the student chose after the word “then.

I hope this visual is a good starting point for you and your students. My goal is to support and encourage you as you tackle difficulties in the classroom. Don’t forget to begin with a clear mind and a heart directed at showing love to your students no matter who they are or how your day is going.

Be filled with God’s strength to make a difference again today. You’ve got this!

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