Needs

It’s not too often I want to reflect about work on my blog.  I guess if something at work has connected deeply enough with me to follow me home, it surprises me.  Before I started working, I always had the idea that I would leave work at work, and for the most part I do.  I rarely actually do the work that I bring home with me.  If I had my way, I’d just stay at school until I was done with what I needed to do.  Actually, if I had my way, I would go to school early to get stuff done, but my room has become the hang-out place for the paraeducators in the mornings, so I don’t get much done after about 7:30 when they start showing up.  So I tend to just show up at my contractually obligated time of 8:15 instead of trying to beat them there to get stuff done.  The bad part is, usually I have stuff going on in the evenings and I need or want to leave right away at 4:00.  So I haven’t been getting everything done that needs done. 

This is just me brainstorming solutions…I could use my time from 3:35 when the kids leave until 4:00 to plan out what I need to get done in the morning, and gather the materials that I would need for that.  Then, when I come at my preferred time of about 7:30 or so, I could just gather up my materials and go somewhere else in the building to work.  Another solution would be, of course, to explain to the paras that I need my room to myself in the mornings, and could they please congregate elsewhere.  But the one that I most need to get rid of is my own para!  She’s so chatty, and in the mornings I sort of just want to be left alone to my coffee and my projects.  I’m not very sociable first thing in the morning, and I don’t always realize that I’m being unfriendly or cold until someone points it out.  The rest of the day I’m a ray of sunshine….I would like to think, anyway…but it’s like I need a little time to wake up and settle in to the day.  Also, I’m totally the most efficient in the morning, probably because I’m less distracted by being social.  So what takes me half an hour in the morning might take me an hour after school.  And it’s her room, too, so I wouldn’t ask her to leave.

Anyway, I totally got off the planned topic, there.  Yesterday we had staff development with all the preschool teachers and paras in the district.  This year our focus during these sessions is Positive Behavior Support.  Basically, the idea is that we see challenging behavior as a message, and we address the message and the problem rather than punishing the behavior.  I am all for this concept!  I have been using it, to some degree, without realizing it for the past three years.  Our trainer’s name is Billie Jo, and I just adore the woman.  Yesterday, while I was sitting there learning about emotional literacy, I was thinking about my class.  All three years, I have had students who need a lot of love.  They want to sit on our laps, and hold our hands, and play with us.  This is not a surprise to me, when you consider both the ages of the kids, and the environments where they come from.  This year, I have one in particular who needs so much that he could just monopolize my attention every minute of the school day.  And, he’s the type that will get it with negative behavior if he can’t get it with positive behavior.  I have recently begun to feel that he and I have reached the breaking point, that we can’t go on like this.  I get way too frustrated and angry with him, and that’s REALLY unusual for me.  Usually, when a child is pushing limits or whatever, I’m almost delighted on the inside, because fixing challenging behavior is one of the parts of teaching preschool that I find to be the most fun.  (I know how strange that sounds!)  With this little one, my usual strategies, based upon teaching him a better strategy to get what he needs, don’t work!  My para’s usual strategies of punishment/rewards don’t work either.  He escalates the situation until I have to be holding onto him for the safety of the other kids, and then he has what he wants because he has ME.  There is no end to his need for love and contact.  If he feels loved and paid attention to, he doesn’t need to escalate.  But there comes a point each day when I just have nothing more to give!  I need to not be sat on or held onto or touched, I just need a break.  But if I do that, he is not getting his loving attention that he craves so badly, and the only thing he knows to do is act out.  It usually happens during rest time, because that’s when I’m looking forward to ignoring the students and having them ignore me, and when I don’t get that break from him, I have nothing left to give him because I react emotionally instead of professionally, and I resent him, and I don’t like him, and I just don’t want to be around him anymore.  It’s gotten to the point that even mornings are bad, because I dread the thought of giving every minute to him until 3:35, and I resent him right away when he shows up.

I was thinking about this student in my meeting yesterday, and it occurred to me that I should have a bottomless reserve of love to give to his bottomless need for it.  Love and caring is not something that is used up and then it’s gone.  When you give it, you should end up with more of it.  What I don’t have an endless reserve of is energy.  The first time I felt I was reaching my breaking point with him when I was not feeling well for a couple of days.  That’s to be expected, and there’s nothing I can do about that.  Sometimes we’re sick and life goes on.  We suffer through.  It gets better.  It hasn’t gotten better with this student because I don’t meet my own needs.  If I meet my own needs, I am able to meet other’s needs.  If I’m not meeting my own needs, I have nothing to give them sometimes. 

Everyone’s needs are different, I think.  Meeting my needs means getting a good night’s sleep, eating something good for me in the morning, being well hydrated, exercising hard a few times a week, doing something peaceful every day, having my house in order, doing something interesting or meaningful or fun that has nothing to do with work most days.  If I don’t make sure I have these things, I need more than I see another person needing.  It’s not that they need less than I need, it’s that I can’t see it or give anything to them because my own needs aren’t met.  If my own needs are met, I really do seem to have an endless reserve of patience and caring for my students and everyone else in my life. 

So the key to begin to figure out how to help this child meet his own needs and regulate his own behavior is to meet my own needs before I step foot in my classroom each day.  Only then will this student have a chance at getting his needs met.

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