Whats 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. Shakiras teacher Ms. Smith, who is concerned about the effect Shikira is having on her other students, searches for a way to reach her.
Shakiras file read like every classroom teachers nightmare: "Physically aggressive verbally abusive high absenteeism failed third grade." A fifth grader of African American dissent, Shakiras 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 Shakiras 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, Shakiras 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. Smiths social studies class. Ms. Smith, an experienced teacher who was well liked by the students, greeted Shakira warmly. "Hi, Shakira. Im 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 wasnt 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 Shakiras 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 Shakiras 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 days social studies lesson underway.
When Ms. Davis arrived, Ms. Smith gave the students a brief writing assignment and stepped outside to consult. "Shakiras 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. "Ill 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."
"Well, Im concerned that you are hitting other students."
"Well, Im going to beat his bonny little a__ if he doesnt stop looking at me!" Shakira said in an angry tone.
"Youre upset because he was looking at you?"
"Just never mind. Im 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?"
"Does Shakira run very fast?"
"No, Maam. Ive never seen her run at all."
"Well, see, thats kind of my point. I know Shakira can be mean. Shes tried to hit me before when Ive 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 shes 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 cant hit me, huh?"
"Well, thats what Id do. Im not saying its right for her to hit you. I know you shouldnt 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. Lets 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 shes so mean?"
"I dont know....."
"Well, Im not sure either, but maybe you and I can come up with a plan to help her. Would you be willing to try it?"
"Okay, lets try this. Every day, lets do two things. Lets 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, well be giving her our attention before she tries to get it herself by hitting! Oh, and one other thing. Lets 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.
CEC Competencies/Knowledge Areas Addressed in the Case
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.
For more information about childhood obesity
For more information about childhood obesity
For more information about behavior management
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