I was working with one of my student teachers recently and she expressed to me her exasperation with her cooperating site teacher. They currently have a child who is in foster care in their class. The little first grader has learned how to manipulate situations and refuses to cooperate with classroom rules. My student teacher is frustrated because when she follows through on classroom procedures with the girl, and she is required to receive the consequences of her actions, the site teacher pulls the girl aside and gives her candy! Ugh!
I know that the site teacher thinks she is being supportive and comforting to this little girl. The student teacher feels like she is forced into the "bad guy" role in the classroom.
I was explaining to both teachers that the most secure and helpful procedure they could follow is being consistent with their expectations for the little girl. While I understand that she needs extra support because of her unfortunately situation, the best support they can give is to be consistent in their expectations and procedures. The best security we can provide for at-risk children is to surround them with the safety net of knowing what to expect when they come into the classroom each day. By having clear rules and guidelines, clear consequences for inappropriate behavior, plus a loving and supporting classroom atmosphere, the small child will be supported in the best possible way. The worst thing we can do for children in a classroom, especially at-risk kids, is not provide the security of consistency. It is unfair and scary in a world that has already treated them unfairly.