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Pulling and pushing

During the last few days in the classroom, I was witness to some remarkable results with respect to children with special or extra needs. The teachers for whom I was working had left notes in each case that included expectations of my having challenges with these children.

Yesterday was the most striking of my realizations. My student whom I’ll call Brandon was labeled as “severely autistic” and likely to demonstrate behavior that would be a distraction. Brandon entered the room with his classmates and quietly sat down at his desk to color.

This was one of those classes that had an inability to sit still, remain quiet or follow instructions without thirty or more repetitions. Add to that some physical bullying, copious tears and the ubiquitous tattle-tales. (Do we have a more contemporary title for that phenomenon? Could it be peer data reporting?)

Throughout all of this unrest, Brandon stayed completely to himself, at times rolling back and forth on the floor. Eventually he approached my desk and asked if he could join me. Smiling, I welcomed him and continued to speak to him in a very soft voice.

Compared to the teacher in the next room whom I heard all day, bellowing as if in a crowded amphitheater or rodeo, I remained soft-spoken, particularly with Brandon. The students may not have remained in the straight line demanded by my colleague, but listened when necessary, hugged me at the end of the day and generally displayed their hopes to see me again.

Brandon was the least of my concerns, maybe because I pulled him into my field of trust instead of pushing him into any specific behavior. While I experience my share of difficult and troubling classroom management events, I couldn’t help but believe that pulling worked much better than pushing. Maybe our world’s anger issues might also be handled with these strategies. Shalom.

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