Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Redirecting Behavior

Redirecting Behavior

Watching the soothing ripple of the stream brings peace to a weary soul.
When first starting to instruct children, I found myself student teaching in a small rural area in Northern Minnesota.  My teaching assignment was to instruct children who had many challenges that they faced in and outside of school.  It was a School Within a School Alternative Program.  The everyday challenges that these children faced were enormous compared to the ones you and I face every day.  Needless to say, I did not want anything to do with this aspect of instruction when completing my student teaching assignment.  My desire was to go right back to college to obtain my Masters degree, teach awhile in the public school, and then precede on to my Doctorate degree and teach History in a college setting.  God though, had other plans.  I began my career teaching at a boy’s ranch outside a large Midwest town.  Children there came from four states and they were from diverse ethic backgrounds. 

A stream knows where it has come from, and where it is going.
God too will show us a way, one that leads to enlightenment and peace.
While instructing at the school, I was expected to teach 6 different classes a day, and with that alone, the requirement was unbelievable as to the preparation required.  Many times I didn’t leave the ranch until after 8 o’clock and sometimes as late as 11 p.m. in the evening. 

Not only was the curriculum challenging, the behavior was beyond anything that any teacher could have ever have imagined.  Many students were there because of their extreme run in’s with the law, and/or having had been horribly abused by someone close to them.  Consequently they were sent to the ranch for behavior modification, as well as an education.  In the beginning, I would listen to my students talking about how they robbed someone, shot this person, or even stabbed some individual.  After awhile, I chose not to listen to these stories, basically because I wanted to know these young adults on their merit that they displayed today, rather than to hear about their past lives which might taint my view of them in the future. 

Water that rests becomes stagnant and is useless.
It has reached an end, but has not fulfilled its purpose.
Years later, I half joked about having more wrestling experience in my classroom at the ranch, than I did in high school.  In reality, I spent almost every day restraining children or breaking up fistfights either in my classroom, or in one of the female teachers’ rooms.
One day while teaching, I found myself on the floor breaking up yet another fistfight between two students.  After their tempers cooled, I talked to each student individually and tried to work out possible solutions to their difficulties, one with another.  The policy held in the school, at the time, was that a punishment was to be given for fighting.  I told my students this and one boy looked up at me and said, “What can you do that hasn’t been done to me already!  On my last day of school, my step dad road on the hood of a car while my mom drove, he whipped me all the way to the school.  So if a whip couldn’t change me, what makes you think this punishment will?”  His comments made me think, "What punishment could we as a school enact on these kids that hasn’t been already tried before they came here?"  I saw then that punishment wasn’t the key to change in the school; something else must be tried, but what?  I prayed about this, partially because I was tired of this route, and because I could see it was a dead end.  Even in our prison systems it was not working, reentry into the prison system for those released, was very high, so punishment wasn’t the key to behavior change.  I found myself becoming very weary and I was wondering if I should resign.  The dropout rate for teachers in this environment was obviously high, and I didn’t want to be another statistic, I wanted to truly help these hurting children, but how?

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13
I believe God showed me a way that would help me to see how positive change could be instituted, that it could not only help the students at the ranch, but later in my encounters with other children. 

I will write more in my next blog post.