Building relationships: Teachers being prepped on dealing with student behaviors

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County School District teachers strive for victory at arm wrestling and thumb wars during Dan St. Romain’s presentation on intervention in the classroom.

As Warren County School District’s teachers were getting ready for the first day of school, they had some specialized training on how to help students use their brains.

Dan St. Romain of Dan St. Romain Educational Consulting, and Tanya Morret, Pennsylvania Department of Education Statewide Gifted Liaison, were at Beaty-Warren Middle School on Thursday, talking to teachers about how to get the right information through to their students.

Their presentations focused on different parts of the education process.

Morret’s presentation was called “How to Challenge and Increase Rigor in the Classroom.”

“Learning is a change in the brain,” Morret said. Too much challenge and students “shut down.” Too little challenge and students “shut down.”

“We want to make sure our challenge is ‘just right,'” she said.

She said teachers should find “enrichment level learning” for all of their students.

In “The Changing Face of Behavior: Intervention in the Classroom,” St. Romain talked about the various ages of students — their social, emotional, ethical, cognitive, and physical ages, and how teachers must deal with them.

He had the teachers up and out of their seats, or in their seats engaged in physical challenges including thumb wars and arm wrestling.

“Behavior is skill development,” he said.

A teacher would not punish a student for failing to master a skill — he or she would keep trying different ways to help the student achieve mastery. But, in the case of undeveloped behavior skills, students are often suspended or sent to alternative education programs as punishment, rather than an attempt to encourage skill growth.

With behavior problems, “instead of asking, ‘How am I going to punish that child… ?’ ask, ‘How do I help that child break that bad habit?'” he said.

Sometimes, the teachers are exhibiting the very skills they don’t want to see in their students. “100 percent of the time, kids are watching,” he said. “Every single day you have verbal struggles with your children.”

Adults who react in the heat of the moment rather than responding after everyone has cooled down are much less likely to use the skills they have. “You have phenomenal social skills when you don’t need them,” St. Romain said.

He said that students and adults alike are developing skills in “interacting with screens at the expense of interacting with people.”

“If you want to create ethical kids, build relationships,” he said.