What is the Need Driving the Behavior?

A student crosses his arms and says “You can’t make me!” Another rolls her eyes and walks away from you. You notice a young lady in the corner on her phone in the middle of a group of peers, while you check your roster and see that once again,Tommy didn’t turn in his math assignment. 

At first glance we might assume defiance, disrespect, or apathy. But what if it is more than that? All behavior is communication. What if what we see as “defiance” is really a student who is scared or struggling. What if the “disrespect” we see is defeat? The young lady checking her phone? Perhaps she feels so disconnected in the peer group, that checking her phone is a way of helping her feel connected to someone. What if Tommy’s homelife makes it possible for him to be calm enough to access the part of his brain that allows him to think? What if that struggle makes him feel so confused that he would rather take a “0” on his assignment than admit to anyone he is lost when it comes to math.

When we take time to pause, even for a few seconds, and ask “what is the need driving the behavior”, it changes how we respond to a student, friend, or coworker. That pause, then allows us to take a different approach – one that takes into account that there is likely more to the story than we realize.  This pause, response, and empathy leads to better understanding. This is the essence of a trauma informed approach.

If you want to learn some specific tools for helping your students feel safe, learn, grow, and thrive, join us for our 3rd annual Reclaiming Hope Conference. Now, more than ever, we need to understand how trauma affects our ability to learn, build healthy relationships, and our physical and mental health!