Lecturer Ross Greene discusses children with behavioral problems

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SVSU hosted Visiting Scholar Ross Greene on Monday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Ott Auditorium in Gilbertson.

The Midland County Educational Services Agency and C of IDEAS sponsored the event in conjunction with SVSU.

David Callejo Pérez, the interim dean of the College of Education, and Michelle Bahr, the director of special education for the Midland County Educational Service Agency, introduced Greene.

“The topic (Greene addresses) is very important to me, both as an immigrant who spoke no English when I came to the United States from Cuba in 1980, and also as a parent of an autistic child,” Pérez said.

Greene, a child psychologist, lectured about collaborative and proactive solutions to help students with behavioral problems.

“Every child struggles sometimes,” he said during the lecture. “Some kids struggle more than others. Regrettably, those are the kids who are sometimes harder to like, harder to connect with.”

Greene said that these are also the students that need the most help from their educators and parents. However, too often, he sees these students’ underlying problems ignored, and only their behavior is addressed in interventions.

To help these students, Greene offered a few key points. The first point was to realize that “academics and behavior go hand in glove.”

Next, teachers should not unilaterally problem-solve the best course of action for the student.

“Problem-solving is collaborative,” Greene said. “It’s something you’re doing with the kid, not to the kid.”

Greene also stressed that problem-solving should be proactive rather than emergent. He noted that everyone “looks bad some of the time,” and students will look bad if teachers and parents do not proactively problem solve why students are acting out.

“When expectations outstrip skills, kids look bad,” he said. “Then, you have a problem to solve.”

Greene believes that students have two ways of communicating that they are having trouble meeting expectations for the behavior or academics: luckily or unluckily.

Lucky ways involve “making adults feel sympathetic” toward them, such as using words or crying. Unlucky ways involve screaming, having tantrums, biting and more.

To demonstrate what often happens to students who express their struggles unluckily, Greene showed a clip from his award-winning documentary, “The Kids We Lose.” The documentary discusses the physical and emotional toll, on the students and their families, of physically restraining or jailing students who exhibited behavioral problems at school.

Greene’s next point was that “kids do well if they can.” If they cannot, “something is in (the student’s) way.” As an adult in that child’s life, he said that it is the teacher’s and parents’ job to “ find the lagging skills and unsolved problems” that the child is facing.

Since many of the audience members were College of Education students, Greene stressed that teachers can play an important role in a child’s life if they are willing to discover students’ problems and solve them.

“Start solving those problems,” he said. “But do so collaboratively and proactively, so that you have yourself a partner: the kid.”