tradecraft…boundaries (part III)

boundaries in structured settings — an example (for professional youth workers):

in settings like schools, juvenile rehabilitation centers, faith-based organizations, summer camps, etc…professionals have the luxury of being guided by state laws and organizational policies in boundary setting…at the same time, depending on the individual group plan within a structured system, the boundaries may look very different:

different programs = different expectations & consequences

student/teacher classroom scenario:

expectation: no talking in class (when the instructor is presenting–unless we’re in a discussion, of course)

consequence: if you disrupt the class by constant talking you can a) be moved to another seat; b) be moved to the clas program; c) be given ISS

note: the clas program is an option at our school; it is a ‘intermediate removal action’ — where the student is removed from the classroom and sent to the clas program room (near the front office)…typically, for only an hour or two – it’s the step we use before ISS (ISS stands for ‘in-school suspension’ which is an entire day stay) –“b” and “c” can be implemented if “consequence a” doesn’t make a dent in the behavior…and the student continues to exhibit disruptive behavior that interferes with the learning process…

here’s a pattern/pathway i’ve followed before…

john commits a boundary violation: john talks loudly about the great time he had at a party over the weekend and disrupts a lesson; his talking distracts other students and pulls them into his story… 

me (response = a choice is offered):  john, would you rather stop talking and continue to sit by your friends or continue talking and move to this seat (near the front of the class)???*

john: stop talking, i guess…

me: ok, let’s move on then…

[a few minutes later…]

john repeats the same boundary violation: talks in class and disrupts a lesson

me (response/action = consequence): i say, “john, your talking is interrupting my teaching–please move to this seat”**

note: i didn’t say, “who do you think you are? you never learn, do you, john?! i can’t stand you–move over here”

*importantly…offering choices can be an extremely valuable thing to do within the “expectation-consequence” scheme…doing so, puts the ball back in their court, where they have some power over ‘the outcome’ & can decide on a course of action–though, all choices/options are ones that you are alright with (as the authority figure) — in other words, the only options on the table are the ones that can get what you want, what you expect…as far as boundaries go…offering choices also keeps things from “getting heated” or “escalating” — nobody likes a tyrant 🙂

**the response that i gave here was the right one…because it focuses on the behavior–what the student did, not who the student is …the response that “i didn’t say”, on the other hand, would’ve been wrong…because it makes the issue personal, confrontational, and (often) an “instant battle”…in fact, taking that tact may very well escalate the situation…by making it about who john is as a person and not about john’s behavior-his talking in class…not what we want to be doing as professionals…

anyways, let’s say that…john ‘behaves’ for the rest of the class period

the next day i might allow him to go back to his original seat (i might even give him “a carrot” in the middle of a consequence …or thereafter…and let him know that he may be able to return to his original seat tomorrow if he can handle his new location for the rest of the day)~

note: in this scenario, i didn’t keep giving the student choices and choices and choices and choices and choices or keep doing the ask, ask, ask, ask, ask thing–which, honestly–doesn’t do a damn bit of good–but, some people go that route in these situations…usually, they are new and inexperienced…and often…they are unsure, afraid or lacking confidence in their authority (or, they want to be seen as ‘cool’ or they want to be ‘friends’ with the kids–one of my least favorite incarnations of a ‘professional youth worker’)…so, if you give an expectation for behavior…it’s really important to follow through (consistently) with the known/stated consequence–pull the trigger, people!–in doing so, you will gain the respect of the kids in your charge and there will be no limits on what you can accomplish together; if you, on the other hand, give an expectation for behavior and don’t follow through with a known/stated consequence–then, not only will you lose the respect of the kids…but, it will become increasingly difficult to manage their behaviors…therefore, making anything you try to accomplish with them much more difficult, if not impossible–

consistent follow through is key in ‘boundaries work’ in structured settings–it shows them (the kid who is ‘acting out’ and the rest of the group) that you’re “not playin'” and “mean business”… 

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