Q: I have a queen bee in my fifth-grade class. The girls idolize her, the boys are afraid of her. What do I do?
Dr. Adele: I agree it’s not a good situation. I wonder how it got started and what keeps it going. The girls may enjoy having a “rock star” in their midst and the boys may be caught up in her spell or just confused by it all.
Someone does have to display a quiet self-confidence to begin to set the record straight; it seems to me that you’re just the person to do that. There should be plenty of respect to go around for everyone in the group. You can point that out, without naming names, and then model the desired behavior.
Make a point of respecting each class member’s thinking and way of expressing him- or herself. Every day, draw out a few kids in a respectful discussion. Pay no more attention to the queen bee than to any other student. At the very least, you will show there is enough respect to go around.
Q: One of my new students has Tourette’s syndrome. My other students are sometimes disturbed by his behavior. How can I help him and other students adjust?
Dr. Adele: You are very wise to raise these questions. A great place to start is by finding some quiet time to review the medical and educational history of your new student. Then, befriend the parents. They definitely will have useful information to share that can help you in the classroom.
Try requesting that your school psychologist talk to your class about Tourette’s. Your new student may even wish to participate. In a brief chat, you or your school psychologist can explain that the noises that the boy makes are involuntary, as if his throat were speaking without his permission. It may say some “bad words” or just shriek or yell. Let them know this is not “Joey’s” doing. It’s a symptom of a brain condition that is not dangerous or contagious.
Explain to the class that when there is a noise, you will all ignore it and get back to work. Then when it happens, praise the class for following your directions. After a few such episodes, most children should just move right along, ignoring the brief disruptions.
However, if the student or many of his classmates are finding this just too stressful and not conducive to learning, you may want to talk to his family and your principal about whether another placement or a modified school day, designed by the special-services team and the boy’s doctors and teacher, may be more appropriate. Another option would be to have an aide at the child’s side during academic sessions that require students’ undisturbed concentration.
With any luck, your whole class will adjust and the student’s noises will soon become as normal tothem as the buzz of the pencil sharpener.