December 9, 2013

Just When You Think You've Got It

It's spirit week at school, and today was pajama day. This pretty much means today was destined to be a good day for everyone, right?

So, why was it so frustrating for me??

As you may recall, I have a student who sometimes shuts down. Completely. Selective mutism is just the tip of the iceberg we deal with. The last time we dealt with this, it lasted 3 periods and resulted in us calling mom in to help get her off the floor where she had been lying in a fetal position (in the middle of class, mind you). Obviously, this is very distracting to the other students and teachers and should be avoided at all costs.

Today, said student was working on a comprehension packet for our novel study, and really didn't want to do the writing section. Now, I am often the scribe for this student, but I also know her capabilities... and this was nothing she couldn't do herself. So, I told her she could write. 

Immediately, she took off her glasses and closed her eyes. This is the first sign that she is shutting down. This is also the point at which she usually decides to stop responding to anything we say or do, and she will stay that way until she is good and ready.

My mind instantly ran though my bag of tricks, searching for something I could try to keep her from shutting down. And then I remembered... gum!

"Would a yummy piece of gum help you work hard for me?" I asked her.


"I have watermelon (her favorite) and pink (it's raspberry cupcake but she just calls it pink). Which would you like?" I pleaded.

"Watermelon," she whispered.

I grabbed a pice from my bag and held it up. 

"Here you go! Remember, though, if you chew this gum, you have to keep working really hard for me!" I reminded her.

She popped the gum into her mouth and began working. She literally did the entire assignment without any more prompting from me (which never happens). She worked independently, wrote for herself, AND she didn't have a meltdown!


Or so I thought. 

At the end of the day, I casually mentioned my gum intervention to our team's Support Facilitator (SPED teacher) and was chastised. He told me I was rewarding her for bad behavior. I explained that I was simply trying to prevent bad behavior, but he doesn't see it that way.

This... the same guy who consistently takes away her consequences AND gives her rewards when she hasn't earned them per her Success Chart (behavior system) because she "bounced back." For example, if she doesn't work during her reading intervention class, she's supposed to miss art, but he'll tell me to take her anyway because he doesn't have anything for her to do (because it's too hard to print off some skills sheets for her to do?). My favorite was when he told her she could leave early for the bus and she looked over at me in confusion because SHE KNEW she didn't earn it that day, per her Success Chart. She lives for rules, and here he is "bending" them left and right.

But I was rewarding bad behavior by encouraging her with a pice of sugar-free gum????????

Just when I think I've got it figured out... {smh}.


  1. Please do NOT worry about the criticism you were given. One of the teachers I teach with always asks me "What is your objective?" In that moment, it sounds like your objective was for her to complete the assignment and feel success because she did it herself. A piece of gum is well worth that feeling for her. Pat yourself on the back! You did a great thing!!

  2. It's a piece of gum...not a shopping spree through Toys 'R Us. I'm not above bribery with gum. In fact, I encourage it. Hope your day is better tomorrow!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. Next time just don't mention it. What he doesn't know, he can't criticize.

  4. Sounds like you do have it figured out...I agree with Ms. OCD...If its one thing I have learned in my teaching career its better to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. PLUS, your building principal is the boss of you (that's what my kids say) so who gives a flip what this person says. You did your job and you did a de-escalation technique. Sounds like you are a much better special educator than this person is anyway. I would keep good records because if you are the classroom teacher, this students performance ultimately falls on you..You done good!!!