Tuesday Topic: What Advice Would You Give to a Teacher?


This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Lydia.

This is my second year teaching First Grade. I have had a lot of experience with children with many different needs both in my parents’ home, camps, and educational settings.  However, there is a particular student in my class this year who comes from “hard places” and I am struggling to set him up for behavioral success.  His behaviors are very impulsive and he struggles to stay on task.  In addition, he is very defiant and often refuses to obey the simplest requests.  Stealing food and lying occur as well.  My typical behavior management tricks do not work with him.

All this to say, regardless of the particular child’s behaviors, what advice would you as a parent give to an educator who is caring for your child and wants them to succeed but is struggling to help that child while simultaneously teaching the rest of the class?  Or are there any tricks you have learned from exceptional educators?

I love that Lydia is asking these questions. Her heart is for this child, as well as her other students.

What has worked for your kids? What hasn’t? If you’re an educator, what tips can you share?

Please take a moment to offer some thoughts and words of encouragement to Lydia. Not only will she benefit, but the rest of us will learn something too.

I’m ready for more Tuesday Topic questions! If you have a Tuesday Topic you would like me to post, email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com   Please put “Tuesday Topic” in the subject line; it will help me stay organized. I’m so glad to be posting new questions (almost) weekly again!

I hope to hear from you today.

encourage one another,



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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Emily Summers
    September 22, 2015

    I don’t know what you are already doing, so forgive me if I state obvious things (or things that fail). My son had impulse control, anger/aggression, and defiance issues.

    1. Know routine. The more he knows expectations, plans, and transitions, the easier. I use a timer at home, especially for hard transitions (giving up your turn on the computer).

    2. Create felt safety. Remind him there is enough to eat. Slow him where his food is kept safe. Explain you have to keep everyone’s food safe. If appropriate, explain school security.

    3. Low staff/student ratio if possible. We picked our son’s preschool based on the staff ratio and the director specifically going into how she helps young students feel safe. This student may be eligible for a behavioral IEP that would give him an aide to help him manage (and separate him from class when he is struggling too much).

    4. Communicate well with parents, therapists, school counselor, special ed, whoever is involved.

    5. Lots of love and prayers (for all your students, and for you).

    I could think of more, but I have to go do Homework with my monkeys!

  2. Krista
    September 22, 2015

    This is such a great topic and I look forward to reading other's insights. I'm an educator and mom of 2 sweet girls who came home to us at ages 3 & 5 via the NYC foster system. I'd want to have coffee with Lydia to dive more deeply into this topic, but would start by recommending that she read Empowered to Connect. Although my undergrad was Early Childhood Education and I took a class on child development, it is an altogether different ballgame when considering children who's experienced trauma and/or loss (or, in the cases of some children who are currently dealing with trauma and/or loss). This book will help provide a different lens with which to examine your student's behavior, and has some tips you can then adapt to the classroom.

    I keep typing more and then deleting it because it's far too much for a comment, but thanks for your sensitivity, Lydia, and posting this, Lisa!

  3. Jess P.
    September 22, 2015

    I will add more later, but here's something I could easily post. My son has been in the Brain Highways program for developing the lower brain (which helps them manage all those symptoms you mentioned). Here's a little video called, "Dear Teacher." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTMLzXzgB_s

    1. Amy B
      September 30, 2015

      Hi Jess- we are currently looking into doing the online Brain Highways with our 4 year old son. Wondering if it has been a positive experience for your family. Thanks!

  4. Melissa Amory
    September 22, 2015

    Hi! This is the first time I've ever commented here, but I am a teacher too…I teach K in a Title I school in Northern VA near Washington DC. Over the years I've had many kids from hard places! The most effective thing I have found is to build a relationship with the child and their family. Make sure they know you love their child. Make sure you share the positive.

    A great book I recently read is "Help for Billy" it's all about working with traumatized children and how to help them. It presents ideas that are counter to what schools traditionally do, but it works. Another good read is The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, it's all about the effects of trauma on kids. I have others, but I don't want to overload you.

    This blog was for me the start of learning about working effectively with children from hard places, if you haven't already, read through all the posts. Especially the ones about Kalkidan, she forever changed me as a teacher.

    1. Gena
      September 23, 2015

      Your comment blessed me so much, Melissa. I love how it reflected so well your heart to be "more" for those in your care. And I loved, "Especially the ones about Kalkidan, she forever changed me as a teacher."
      It made me so grateful, Lisa, that you have repeatedly chosen to share your story and your family's – in times of hope and in times of great darkness. I wonder how many other people also consider themselves forever changed because of Kalkidan and because of your truth. God is so good and He uses our obedience to Him and our trust in His goodness, in ways we could never imagine. May He continue to show Himself to you and make "His face shine upon you".

  5. Anita
    September 22, 2015

    I am a teacher (29 year veteran) and parent to a boy from hard places. I learned early on that parenting his behavior was "counter intuitive" to what most of us were raised with. For example, when I would normally isolate and give him a "time out", I instead did a "time in" where he sat next to me and we either talked calmly together, looked at books together, or just sat. We didn't focus on the behavior until we were ready to rejoin and then the discussion was short, "Are your body and mind ready to rejoin?". Calmly stating something like, "I know it can feel overwhelming/scary/'insert emotion here' sometimes, but I'll always be here to help you" can really help grow that trusting relationship. Being consistently calm when his emotions are all over the board was a key for us. Feelings of isolation were triggers for him and many children from hard places. Instead of consequences in the classroom, he responded to "front loading"…preparing him for what was to come and how he was expected to handle himself…always with a positive spin. Things like, "We'll be lining up to go to the library in 5 minutes. Remember that we line up by walking to our spot without touching others and we keep our voices off. " Even if he only get one part of that correct, call him on it in front of the group…"__________ knew to line up by walking." Praise for ANYTHING he did correctly would go miles and miles. Behavior charts, time outs, reprimands, shame, blame, etc. made no change to his behaviors. Feeling accepted by the group starts with being accepted and appreciated by the teacher. Sometimes the behaviors are testing you to see if you'll hang in there through his tough times (that feeling of abandonment pops up) and sometimes the behaviors are his emotions coming out.

  6. Char
    September 22, 2015

    I second the "Help for Billy" book recommendation.

  7. Lisa V
    September 23, 2015

    Heather Forbes is doing a Webinar on creating a trauma-sensitive classroom: http://beyondconsequences.com/anevening/?inf_cont

  8. Erika
    September 25, 2015

    I have been a teacher (grades K-3) for the past 17 years. I second the "time-ins", frequent parent contact/getting to know the family well, knowing routines/schedule, letting the student know what is coming next and verbally praising ANYTHING the student does well. Practicing new things (fire drills, assemblies, having a guest teacher) ahead of the events will also help. I live near the community where I teach, and I have gone to birthday parties, ball games and on coffee/hot chocolate dates with some of my students and parents. You give up some Saturday time, but it is so worth it in the end to make that child feel special and for them to know that they are loved and cared for.

  9. Laura
    September 25, 2015

    Carol Brown of Equipping Minds has resources for parents and teachers of kids with special needs. As I've learned from Empowered to Connect and Karin Purvis, kids from hard places qualify as such. I'm an educator with credentials in Learning Handicaps and her program introduced a whole new world of successful interventions. Carol works with and has worked with many adoptive families. The brain workout that you get creates many positive changes.


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