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What’s Our Goal?

Shakira is a physically aggressive fifth grader who is 5 feet tall and weighs 240 pounds. Identified as emotionally handicapped in the 3rd grade, she is often absent and has already failed one grade. No one, including the social workers, the teachers, or her mother are able to do much about her absenteeism, or her behavior. Shakira’s teacher Ms. Smith, who is concerned about the effect Shikira is having on her other students, searches for a way to reach her.

 

Shakira’s file read like every classroom teacher’s nightmare: "Physically aggressive…verbally abusive…high absenteeism…failed third grade." A fifth grader of African American dissent, Shakira’s disposition in class lived up to the descriptions found in her records. Already into the third month of the school year, she was absent as often as she attended school. A five feet, Shakira, weighed 240 pounds. Her excuse for being absent so often was her health. Her teachers suspected self-esteem problems.

Shakira did not fit comfortably into any of the classroom desks, and had to sit sideways in her chair when she did attend class. She verbally abused students and teachers alike constantly and consequently had no friends at school. Altogether, she was a most disagreeable student.

Social workers, two at this point in the school year, had attempted to get her help for her weight problem. They made home visits and tried to work with her mother on the problem, explaining the importance of attendance. Her mother said she would do what she could but admitted that she was seldom able to control Shakira’s behavior at home.

Shakira was a bright student when she tried, but getting her to try was the hard part. No one, not the social workers, her teachers, or her mother could persuade Shakira to show up regularly for school. For the other students, Shakira’s absence was a relief. When she did come to school, she would literally hit anyone within striking distance as she walked through the halls. She would say nasty things to classmates, unprovoked, at every opportunity. During physical education, she would sit in the bleachers and make snide remarks to those participating.

Following physical education one day, the students filed into Ms. Smith’s social studies class. Ms. Smith, an experienced teacher who was well liked by the students, greeted Shakira warmly. "Hi, Shakira. I’m glad to see you today!"

"Humph," the girl returned, as she headed toward her seat.

As the class was getting settled, Mike, a tall lean boy, approached Ms. Smith.

"Ms. Smith, Shakira just hit me. I wasn’t doing anything, just walking to my seat, and she reached out and hit me. She was saying mean things to me in PE, too."

Mike, a particularly mature and sweet-natured boy, was not one to complain. Handsome and popular, he was the type of student who could get along with almost anyone.

Since this was not the first time for such behavior from Shakira, Ms. Smith decided to call Ms. Davis, the mainstream consultation teacher responsible for facilitating Shakira’s inclusion in general education. Shakira was identified as emotionally handicapped in the third grade and had received consultative services since that time. Ms. Smith and Ms. Davis had discussed Shakira’s aggression before, and agreed to work more proactively on reducing the problem.

"Tracy, would you please go find Ms. Davis for me? She should be in her office," she said as she got the day’s social studies lesson underway.

When Ms. Davis arrived, Ms. Smith gave the students a brief writing assignment and stepped outside to consult. "Shakira’s here today, and she seems to be in a really fowl mood. She hit Mike very hard when he was going to his seat. How should we handle this?"

The two women formulated a plan. "Since it happened in your classroom, I think you should be the one to address Shakira about it, " said Ms. Davis. "I’ll talk to Mike."

Ms. Smith called Shakira outside as Ms. Davis went in the classroom. Shakira reluctantly walked out into the hallway as Ms. Smith said, "It seems you have been having trouble with Mike today."

"So."

"Well, I’m concerned that you are hitting other students."

"Well, I’m going to beat his bonny little a__ if he doesn’t stop looking at me!" Shakira said in an angry tone.

"You’re upset because he was looking at you?"

"Just never mind. I’m sick of this school and everyone here." With that, she went back in the classroom, put her head down on her desk, and refused to participate.

Meanwhile, Ms. Davis had been sitting down in a seat next to Mike. "So, what happened with Shakira?"

"Well, I was just walking to my seat and she reached out and hit me really hard!"

"Hmmm, I bet that was aggravating. Ms. Smith mentioned there was also a little trouble in PE class. Is that right?"

"Yes, ma’am."

"Does Shakira run very fast?"

"No, Ma’am. I’ve never seen her run at all."

"Well, see, that’s kind of my point. I know Shakira can be mean. She’s tried to hit me before when I’ve been walking by her. But you know what I do? I just move out of the way. In fact, I try really hard not to get within striking distance, just in case. I figure she’s not going to run me down to hit me. You know what I mean?"

"I think so. Just find a different way to get to my seat so she can’t hit me, huh?"

"Well, that’s what I’d do. I’m not saying it’s right for her to hit you. I know you shouldn’t have to worry about that. But, I think we can help Shakira change that habit. Maybe we should try to figure out why she does it in the first place. Let’s see, it could be she wanted your attention. Does Shakira have many friends?"

"None around here."

"Why do you think that is, Mike?"

"Because she is so mean."

"Why do you think she’s so mean?"

"I don’t know....."

"Well, I’m not sure either, but maybe you and I can come up with a plan to help her. Would you be willing to try it?"

"Yes, ma’am."

"Okay, let’s try this. Every day, let’s do two things. Let’s try greeting her nicely every time we see her in the hall. Just saying hello, you know, before she has a chance to do anything aggressive. Then, we’ll be giving her our attention before she tries to get it herself by hitting! Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not walk quite close enough for her to hit us, just in case, until we see if our plan works, okay?" Mike agreed to the plan.

After class, Ms. Davis and Ms. Smith spoke again. Each shared what had transpired in their discussions with Shakira and Mike. They were glad that at least the issue with Mike had been resolved but knew that they had to do something more to reach Shakira.

"What are we going to do? What is our goal here?" Ms. Smith asked as she shook her head.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. List what you learned about each of the characters in the case.
  2. What do you think is motivating the thoughts/actions of each of the characters.
  3. What are the issues/problems in the case?

Additional Questions

  1. Do you think that Shakira’s teachers have done enough to help Shakira  improve her school attendance? Why or why not?
  2. What accommodations could be made for Shakira so that she will feel more comfortable in school?
  3. Do you think that Shakira’s teachers handled the altercation between she and Mike effectively?
  4. What behavior management techniques would you recommend to Shakira’s teachers? Why do you think that these techniques might improve the situation?
  5. Was the approach Ms. Davis took in counseling Mike appropriate and realistic?
  6. Do you think that Mike will greet Shakira nicely when he sees her in the hall? Why or Why not?
  7. What else could be done to help Shakira?
  8. What else could be done to improve the situation for everyone?

 

CEC Competencies/Knowledge Areas Addressed in the Case

Major Areas:

Importance of the teacher serving as a model for students.

Social skills needed for education and functional living environments and effective instruction in the development of social skills.

Strategies for crisis prevention.

globe.gif (2512 bytes)For more information about childhood obesity

globe.gif (2512 bytes)For more information about childhood obesity

globe.gif (2512 bytes)For more information about behavior management

 

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