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    another perspective
    By J/IA

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    I have taught at-risk intermediate grades for 10 years. What works for me and my students is an approach advocated by a man named Rick Dahlgren. His program is called "Refocus." It is an approach based on unconditional positive regard for all students. It is not rewards based. Rather, the teacher has an ongoing challenge to create a community of caring, responsible kids, where positives come regularly and are not connected to a behavior each and every time. The other side of this is an absolute intolerance for interruptions. Students who interrupt, pull others off-task (including the teacher) are asked to "refocus," which is pretty much a time to get outside the group, reflect on your behavior choices, and get back on track. Students are welcomed back when they are done. This is all on paper--students record times so in the end you have a record of how much time they've spent in refocus. It isn't as simple as all that--there is a great deal of work done on procedures in the classroom. Lots of overlap with Dr. Harry Wong, if you know him (great author to look into for behavior issues). There is also a lot of overlap into cognitive education, brain based practices, and efficacy practices, if you're familiar with any of those.

    This is all done in positives. Refocus isn't where we go when we are being punished, rather where we ask students to go because we care about them and their success, and they can't be successful if they are not task. Also, their is a break time during the day, and this is the time where you can catch up with kids who need your extra attentions--that way they don't pull you away from your task of teaching the group. Again, that is phrased positively--I care about you so much I'm going to sit here and work with you on X assignment so you can be successful, and I'm available for you at 10:35 (coincidentally, break time!). Also, staying after school isn't punishment, it's "After School Academy" where caring adults stay after to help kids work on whatever it is that is standing in the way of their success. It is a lot of work, but my experience is that there is no quick fix for behavior--especially when dealing with at-risk kids.

    I also recommend an author Dr. Ruby Payne--she has excellent information on understanding children and families in poverty. Check her out!

    I've rambled long enough. Good luck!

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