I work at a daycare center with small children–toddlers, aged 12-23 months. Since I have only four children enrolled, I work alone in my classroom without an assistant. Recently I took a training course online for CEUs (training hours required by state licensing) on the topic of challenging behavior, which is something I face in my classroom all the time.
A significant part of the course focused on what’s called “reframing”. Essentially, it means training yourself to think about the children’s behavioral issues as “challenges” rather than “problems”. (Reminds me of the novel Up The Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, where when a high school teacher has a problem that administration lacks either money or motivation to solve, the refrain is “Let it be a challenge to you.” Or, as translated by the more experienced of the two main characters, “You’re stuck with it.”)
Now, I get where they’re coming from. Really, I do. I know that a positive attitude about your situation is supposed to work wonders. I know that neither administrators nor parents want a teacher thinking of their students only in terms of the behavioral “challenges” they present. And yes, I know that thinking in terms of “challenges” is probably more likely to lead to thinking outside the box in order to find solutions.
I know all this, but I still can’t help resenting the emphasis on reframing rather than any kind of practical solutions for dealing with challenging behavior. If I’m desperate because I have a toddler in my class who is biting–and remember, I work alone, so I don’t have an assistant to supervise the children while I’m changing diapers and it’s unsafe to leave a child unattended on the changing table, which means if I’m changing a diaper I’m unable to physically intervene in a behavioral incident–it isn’t helpful to me to hear that I need to “reframe” the biting child’s behavior as a challenge.
The bottom line in this situation is still that I have a child who, several times a day, is effectively free to harm other children in the classroom and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can settle that child at a table with an activity before starting diaper changes, but that doesn’t mean the child will stay at the table or that other children will stay away from the biting child. Parents of a child who’s being returned to them with the marks of another child’s teeth on their body aren’t interested in hearing about the “challenge” being presented by a child who’s biting other children; they’re interested in hearing that their child’s teacher won’t allow it to happen again. This is a promise that, in this situation–which situation I was in for most of last year–I can’t honestly make.
I know that I can’t expect administration to hire an assistant teacher for my room just for help in supervising one child, but I resent being told to think of an impossible situation as a challenge to be overcome. I’m sure it’s very convenient for administration; they can train their teachers to “reframe”, then pat themselves on the back as if they’ve accomplished something. Problems don’t just go away because they’ve been redefined out of existence. It’s like the way the school where my mother used to work tried to reduce their number of behavioral incidents: by limiting teachers’ access to report forms. (Fewer written reports = fewer incident statistics = better behavior in school, apparently according to that administration.) It feels like the same attitude at my school: if administration isn’t hearing about a problem because I’m making my best effort to overcome my “challenge” on my own, then there’s no problem; if they’re hearing about a problem, then I’m not making my best effort. It’s a catch-22.
Or maybe it’s just a “challenge”. 😛