One of the main goals of every teacher is that they create a classroom where their students feel safe and loved. That goal is completely non-behavioral. You can’t measure it. But you know it when you see it. There are certain classrooms that you walk into and you know the students want to be there. As special education teachers, this goal is maybe even more important. Many of our students struggle with basic everyday skills that we all take for granted. Some of our students struggle to communicate their wants and needs, make friends, control their anxiety, ask questions, and be comfortable in their own skin. We need our classrooms to be a place where students are understood, respected, and valued. Our students need a place they can communicate and participate in their own way. This is no small feat. Accomplishing this task will your classroom a reinforcing place that students want to be.
Value Their Communication
Many of our students struggle with communication. Take the time every day to work with your students on improving their communication. Be patient and problem solve when you don’t understand them. Even if you know that they want pizza for lunch, let them request it. That will show them that you do understand and value their communication method.
Maintain the Schedule
There is nothing worse than making a deal with someone and then they change it right at the end. When I give PDs about behavior change, I always tell the story about my horribly hard workout class. The teacher lists all the exercises we are doing and at once we finish the last item, she adds something not on the list (and something horrible like burpees or planks) and I’m pissed. That wasn’t the deal. The deal was we are done after squats. A schedule isn’t just there for decoration. It’s a deal. And you need to keep your end of the deal. This will help your students value the schedule, utilize it, and allow you to make those very necessary changes easier when you need to.
Praise, Praise, Praise
If you think you are praising your students enough, you probably aren’t. Do a test. For one morning count how many times you praise your students. Then divide that number by your number of students. Whatever the number is – double it. Our kids are told so often what they aren’t doing well and aren’t doing correctly that we need to tell them at every single opportunity how great they are and how many things they can do well.
Just Love Them
Again this isn’t behavioral. You can’t set up a checklist for how to achieve this. You can’t buy a product for this on TpT. But at the end of the day the most important thing is that you love them. They are your kids. Protect them, advocate for them, and always have their best interest at heart. If you follow the principles, you will be on the right track.