Today's teaching tip is a throwback from my early blogging days. I'm sharing it again today because there has been a lot of talk about students in our classrooms who are desperate for attention, good or bad. There are many ways to work with these students, and in this post, originally shared I share
Originally posted December 2008:
I have a student, J, who is one of seven children in his home. He's a great kid, but he can be very distracting in the classroom (imagine the loudest child you know and magnify that by ten). It isn't hard to imagine why a child from such a large family would need to adopt some attention-seeking behaviors, but he has a hard time turning that off in school.
A couple of weeks ago, J asked if he could sit with me behind my desk in a spare chair. Although this is an odd request from a middle school student, I permitted him to move. At the time, I was willing to negotiate pretty much anything to get him to stop talking and stay on task!
It's been about two weeks now, and J is still happily sharing a desk with me during his language arts classes. Because of his proximity, he is often the first student I ask to do me small favors (turn on the projector, hand out papers, etc.), and he is eager to comply with my requests.
J's behavior has dramatically improved with this new seating arrangement. I think he really relishes in having that "special attention" from me and with his added responsibilities in the classroom. It's amazing how such a small, seemingly meaningless change can sometimes have such a profound effect.
J sat at my desk with me for the remainder of the year and went on to be one of my favorite students. I found a simple way to give him the attention he craved in a way that created a win-win situation. In all fairness, I should also mention that I believe some of his behavior was an effort to avoid tasks that he deemed too difficult. He didn't want to be perceived as "dumb" by his peers because he was in the gifted class, but the truth is, he struggled more than many. When he sat at my desk, it also allowed him to quietly ask for my help (or sometimes I would simply offer when I could hear him sighing in frustration) instead of causing a distraction. His grades improved along with his behavior.
Obviously, I don't suggest this tactic for all students, but J is not the only student with whom I've tried this tactic Some students will simply demand our attention, and they don't discriminate the type they receive. I prefer, of course, to find ways to give them positive attention as much as possible!