Image source: www.Online-behavior.com
I share my classroom with the teacher who works with kids that have not been cooperating and who need an opportunity to get themselves together. The other day he brought in a child who was really angry and sad. The child would not listen to any adult trying to talk to him about calming down.
Now this child was in the corner with the other teacher, who was trying very hard to get him just to settle down at this point and stop screaming and being physically aggressive. As I watched out of the corner of my eye, it occurred to me that the teacher was trying to solve the problem of the child’s behavior. But maybe that was the wrong problem.
I walked over to the boy and said, “I want to make you a deal. I’m going to teach you something, and if you learn it, you can come out of the corner. Do you want to take my deal?”
Instantly, the boy stopped crying. Through teary eyes, he nodded and calmly came with me to the board. I then proceeded to teach him how to write out the Twelve Bar Blues, and I asked if he could copy that from memory.
It turned out the boy found my challenge kind of interesting, and he actually did better than most kids at memorizing the 4x3 grid of notes. It seems he was really looking to be stimulated, and the activity did that for him. It provided him with an interaction that had nothing to do with his behavior, and it gave him a chance to succeed at something, which is also what he must have wanted that day.
After he showed me that he’d memorized the pattern, I kept my end of the bargain. With the other teacher’s permission, I sent him back to his seat. He walked to it without a cry or fuss and got to work.
I often can get stuck trying to solve a problem that I think will give me what I want. In this case, trying to change the boy’s behavior was the wrong problem. The right one was finding the interaction that would engage him.
This blog isn’t about my brilliant solution. It’s about dealing with an unsolvable problem. It could be that the solution is to solve a different problem.
Sometimes when I can’t play a particular passage on the piano, I’ll attempt to play it backwards, last note first. Instead of solving the problem of making mistakes, I am solving the more interesting problem of knowing when to play which notes with which fingers backwards. This is, of course, the real state of mind I need to uncover my difficulties with the passage going forwards.
What kinds of problems do you find unsolvable? Maybe you can post them in my comments section. Then different folks can reply with what they think a better problem would be.