Tutoring the “Behavior Problem”

April 7, 2009 at 10:02 pm 2 comments

posted by Allison Warren ’08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher

allisonAfter graduation last May, I moved to my hometown, Memphis, Tennessee and took this school year off to have my first child. Because the school district has cut funding for tutors, I decided to volunteer once a week at a local public school.  I was assigned to help two first grade students with their reading skills.  The teacher asked if I would consider tutoring a “problem child.” My overwhelming reaction was, “Absolutely!”  The child, who I’ll call David, was born in Sudan but has lived in the United States since he was two.  His family speaks very little English. According to the teacher, his home life is a difficult one.

I began meeting with David and realized that his self-confidence was low and his distractibility high.  During the first few meetings, we strictly worked on forming a relationship, discussing common likes/dislikes and sharing books together.  I noticed David peering around the hall, getting out of his seat often, and saying under his breath, “I’m bored. I can’t do this.”  Instead of demanding he focus or negating his feelings, I did what Bank Street taught me.  I gave him breaks and agreed that reading can feel difficult.

One example brings a smile every time I think of it.  A few weeks ago, David and I were discussing ‘-ing’ endings when it seemed that a switch turned off in David.  He began popping his finger in his mouth.  You know…when you put the tip of your finger in the side of your mouth and pop it out, making a hilarious cartoon-like sound. David’s demeanor was one that read, “Watch this woman. What are you gonna do now?”  I smiled at him, put my finger in my mouth and popped right back.  His eyes were huge and he laughed. I said, “How loud can you make yours? Let’s both try five times and then we’ll get back to these endings.”  And…we did.

Allison Warren graduated in 2008 with a MS in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.  She is currently taking the school year off to raise her first child.

Entry filed under: classrooms, dialogue, early childhood, social-emotional learning, special education.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nicole  |  April 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Hi allison,

    Tell me, what will you do as a classroom teacher when you have
    7 children like David? The same thing? And do you think it will work?

  • 2. Allison  |  January 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I can happily say, now that I have 3 years of Kindergarten experience under my belt…..that….yes, I would do the same thing. I believe that kids need breaks, respect for whimsical and distracting moments. Most of all, I believe that allowing children the chance to express their frustration, leading them back to an important concept, and giving genuine positive feedback when they complete a difficult task is my job. I guess I could send them to a corner, embarrass them in front of others, or isolate them like the majority of my colleagues do. Thank God for BS. I know better.

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