Challenges and Rewards
Hardest thing I have ever done (physically): Hike from Wild Basin Trailhead to Ouzel Lake Campsite and back again in Rocky Mountain National Park with a 40 lb. pack.
Most rewarding thing I have ever done (physically): Hike from Wild Basin Trailhead to Ouzel Lake Campsite and back again in Rocky Mountain National Park with a 40 lb. pack.
Hardest thing I have ever done (professionally):Teach students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders.
Most rewarding thing I have ever done (professionally): Teach students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders.
When I sat down to write a blog on classroom management, I started thinking about experiences I have had in my life that were similar to changing challenging student behavior. The hike referenced above came to mind. I was surprised at the number of parallels. Take a look!
Planning is key!
- The Hike: Planning came well before the hike and took a good amount of time to accomplish, but it was part of the reason the hike was successful! For starters, I needed to know where I was starting, where I wanted to go, and how I was going to get there. I mapped out a plan and made certain I had the gear necessary to hike and camp.
- Behavior Change: Creating a plan is imperative. You need to fully understand the behavior you are trying to change and the new, prosocial behavior you would like to see in your students. It’s important to map out your intervention and put it on paper! Before you implement your plan, make sure you have the necessary materials, too!
Communication is important.
- The Hike: Since I was planning to be five miles into the depths of Rocky Mountain National Park without cell service, it was necessary to inform my children that I would be unavailable. I made sure I shared my plan with a close friend as well. I also asked the park rangers questions to gain clarity on the challenges and potential dangers of the hike.
- Behavior Change: Communicating your plan with others involved can make or break the intervention. Parents, students, and colleagues need to know what will happen and when. They can even be a source of information about behavior challenges or reinforcers for the students. Finally, they can provide support when things get challenging…and they will!
I wanted to quit.
- The Hike: There were many times, as I was climbing, that I wanted to stop and turn around. My pack was lopsided. My legs were Jell-O. It rained and turned cold. Trail mix wasn’t cutting it! I forgot the coffee. Moose are really big, especially up close, and I was warned numerous times about bears. There were so many reasons to give up! Instead, I kept the goal in mind, made adjustments, and kept on going until I reached camp.
- Behavior Change:You will experience challenges. More than likely, behavior will get worse before it gets better, and you might want to give in. Do not quit! Your student is counting on you to adjust, believe in him or her, and follow the plan.
It can be emotional!
- The Hike:I could use a million different feeling words to describe the experience in Wild Basin. It was strenuous, painful, beautiful, tiring, amazing, scary, frustrating, awe-inspiring…and so much more. While I didn’t cry (out of pain or happiness), I sure came close. The best feeling of the entire hike came at the end when I realized I had been successful…an immense wave of pride swept over me (which temporarily made me forget the blisters on my feet).
- Behavior Change:Working through challenging behavior and teaching new behavior is hard. You might feel lost, mad, crazy, and defeated. But then, you will see it. The glimmer of a small change. You will feel a flicker of hope. Then, if you are consistent, that one small change will grow into daily positive behavior! And then, you too will realize you have been successful and feel an amazing sense of pride!
You must celebrate!
- The Hike: After 10.2 miles, my celebration consisted of sharing my experience with as many people as possible, PIZZA, and a hotel room! I celebrated as soon as I finished, and I continue to celebrate today when I think back on the rewards of the hike!
- Behavior Change: So much effort goes into changing challenging behavior, but if you work hard and stay consistent, you will get where you want to be with your student(s). When you do, celebrate! Celebrate your ability to positively impact your students and their ability to learn new and better ways of communicating their needs. Have the PIZZA party! Watch a movie! Extend recess by 15 minutes. You and your student(s) deserve it!
For a few additional tips on classroom management, check out these great videos from Teaching Channel. I bet you can find a new idea or two to use during your trek up Behavior Mountain!