catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 48, Num 1 :: 2008.10.01 — 2008.12.15


How to include challenging children

Two Too Many?

Question #1:

What can a teacher do if she doesn’t feel capable of working with inclusion, and she found that she will have two children with learning disorders. What can she do?


I can offer a few suggestions, but you probably just have to ask a lot of questions. I gather from the tone of your letter that this is a done deal, and you will be getting these two children in your class. Talk to your administrator and get as much information as you can. Read the documentation that might be found in the child’s file and, as questions arise, consider contacting people who may have been involved with the child previously. Meet with the parents and each child, if possible, and learn from the parents their expectations and best ways of working with the child. 

Once I had found out about the child and learned the name of the disability or syndrome, I would read about or view as much information as I could to prepare myself in some ways for what might lie ahead. I remember reading books like Lovey, City Kid and Circle of Children by Mary McCracken which, although they gave a picture of the frustration a teacher may have in working with challenging children, showed that the relationship with the children was of ultimate importance. 

You might also want to talk with other teachers who have faced the same situation that you are facing and find out what made the task easier for them. In addition to equipping yourself with the practical tools, remember to seek God’s blessing for yourself and the children.

Inappropriate social interaction

Question # 2:

How can we encourage students to befriend and help borderline students who have social problems?


Students watch their teachers and take their cue from them. The way a teacher reacts to and treats a student who has social problems serves as a model for the classroom interaction. You might have to talk to the students in your classroom about appropriate and inappropriate social interaction, the reasons for these actions, and how one learns that they are appropriate and inappropriate. You probably have to talk about ways of reacting to these behaviors at a time when the child is not present. 

I suggest you start with a reference to 1 Peter 4: 8-10, which states that “love covers a multitude of sins” and issues the call that we are to be hospitable to one another without complaining. Have the students in your classroom voice their concerns and together decide what would be the most loving and kind way in which to respond. In each class you will find students who have different levels of tolerance for these behaviors. This may occur because they have had some previous experience with family or friends. Allow those most comfortable to take the lead and have other students learn from them.

If the child exhibiting these behaviors is able to comprehend that these actions are inappropriate, you might have to talk one on one with the child, explaining that the actions are such that others students may not like and they will not help him to make or maintain friends. You may want to develop a secret nonverbal signal which you will use with the child to let him know that you have noticed him displaying the inappropriate behavior.

If the child exhibiting the behavior is not able to comprehend that it is inappropriate, you may have to train the child by repeated verbal and non-verbal response to refrain from doing the action or provide an alternate appropriate action. For example, a child constantly picking his nose is repeatedly handed a Kleenex.

I believe that the tone the teacher sets in the class regarding students’ differences is the one which will prevail. Your reaction to the student as well as your handling of inappropriate reactions by others will reinforce the positive trend you wish to set. You will likely have the not-so-positive reactions from some students, but those will have to be dealt with individually and privately.

Lack of home enforcement

Question #3

What do you do when you have a child exhibiting behavior problems in the classroom, and the parents are not reinforcing proper behavior at home? 


Our staff raised a similar question at a recent meeting, and the teacher involved gave specific examples. Although parents, upon entering the school may agree to certain standards and support, there is little a teacher, administration or school board can do to enforce this agreement aside from refusing to enroll the child the following year. That, however, does not solve the present situation. The only thing our staff concluded we could do was to deal with the behavior of the child while she is in the classroom during school time. When an incident occurs, deal with it and give the consequences you would give to any student who exhibits that behavior.

Because the behavior is sometimes learned in the home environment, the suggestion was made to give a biblical basis for why the behavior is wrong, and then provide the consequences to the student. Corrective measures may have to increase in intensity with repeated offences. Throughout the process show the child that she is loved, but the behavior may not continue in the classroom or on the school grounds. Indicate specific examples of how the behavior breaks the sense of classroom community. A word of advice from myself, a principal – the teacher should deal with the situation as long as possible before turning it over to the principal. The reason for this is that the student may think that the classroom teacher no longer has authority once the principal starts handling the situation. 

Also it is important to inform the parent, according to school policy, that the behavior is intensifying. Communication with the principal will help determine when administration will have to take up the matter with the parents. It is a difficult situation when the brokenness of sin manifests itself in this way and when children are placed at a disadvantage because of it. Always keep in mind Colossians 3:16 and 17: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you  richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom … and whatever you do,  in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 

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