What should you do when a student throws a book at you in class because they are upset? What should you do when a student attempts to hit you in the cafeteria because they are overwhelmed? What should you do when a student attempts to stab you with their pencil in a moment of frustration? These are the tough questions educators ask themselves after experiencing a learner who is in crisis. It is these questions that haunt the drive home and it is these questions that when presented in isolation can lead to very incomplete answers. The correct answer for each of these should involve some variation of “move”, but our actions beyond that need to be much more prescribed if we are looking to do right by learners.
Our actions need to be based off of what we know rather than what we hope. If you are only relying on the hope that the behavior will change, I have some bad news: hope is not a strategy. Hope is the oar that keeps pushing your boat forward each day in anticipation of a new horizon, but without the proper navigation that a thorough behavior plan offers you can end up going in circles.
If we want to avoid being lost at sea with students who escalates we have to be sure that we map out a plan well before we find ourselves in the boat each day. Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans can guide us in our journey and they can better prepare us for the unexpected storms. I know, making sure that you have a solid behavior plan is never the answer someone wants to hear when asking “what do I do when….?”, but when you ask bad questions you inevitably will get bad answers.
Behavior plans allow us to go deeper and ask more precisely “how can I safely support this student now in a manner that aligns with their prescribed behavioral program?” It is this process by which the proper visual supports, reinforcement systems, and communication strategies are identified that can better inform our practice in a moment of crisis. Work with your school team through this process so that when you do see the book flying your way you will know exactly how you to support.
But please, in the meantime, move!