First off, the depth and breadth of the replies to my inquiry is one of the things I really enjoy about FLL (and having this email list).
I will try to answer some of the questions to paint a more complete picture. He is a smart 11 year old and he does get bored, but I don't think the "being smart" is the force behind "getting bored". I think (with no professional background in this other than being a coach for seven years and father of four) is that he's never been held to an expectation of performing at a certain level. Physically, he is small for his age, and I think that may play a role. He's been treated differently because he appears a few years younger than he is. He has no IEP, though my wife (who is a pre-school teacher), reminds me that the lack of an IEP doesn't mean he doesn't have any issues.
His parents acknowledge the challenges he presents. However, wearing my own parent hat, I can say that they lack consistency in their own discipline. Sometime when he misbehaves (outside of FLL), they discipline him, only to later "feel bad" about it and then try to make up for it (with some sort of what I would call a reward). They also sometimes write off his behavior as "He is who he is."
Personally, I do take the approach of setting the bar very high in terms of expectations and it works well. I've had kids come out their shells and perform at a level that their parents never thought was possible (and as a coach, that is a great feeling). I will try to make sure I do the same with him (and avoid inadvertently setting the bar low by expecting him to misbehave).
I do like the idea of "roles" within the team. We've done that a little, but more for teamwork and robot design, and not more comprehensively across the entire spectrum of team activities.
I do try to be clear with the boundaries. So, for example, when he decides to start telling why a certain movie is rated PG-13, I politely stop him and tell him that it's not appropriate to share that with the team. When he decides to whistle loudly during practice, I let him know that it can distracting to his teammates (and coaches) and ask him politely to stop. "But I like to whistle!" he pouts. (And I tell him that he can whistle all he wants outside of practice). And you see, it's not one or two big things, but more along the lines of constantly seeking attention. (Death by a thousand cuts, I call it to myself).
I appreciate all the feedback and ideas that have been shared (and please don't stop!). My co-coach and I will consider them all and certainly put some of them in place for the season.
John J. Barrett
Industrial Medium Software, Inc.
1616 Anderson Road
McLean, VA 22102
On Aug 27, 2012, at 3:05 PM, [log in to unmask] wrote:
> Gina Willett
> ----- Reply message -----
> From: "Sonya Shaver" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: [VADCFLL-L] How to deal with team member who thrives on negative attention...
> Date: Mon, Aug 27, 2012 2:19 pm
> How old is this child? A lot depends on the child's age. I probably have a different perspective than others, but I really shy away from the idea of rewards for good behavior, and from the idea of working towards unrelated prizes. I have more of an Alfie Kohn approach with kids. I want the goal that they work towards to be the thrill of discovery and the sense of real success at their own accomplishments. This is what I love about FLL. It's just totally set up for this to be an exciting and engaging activity in which the kids take the lead, are in charge, and have accountability for following through. And then they get to be amazed at themselves and what they accomplish!
> So, if this were me, I would start by finding out some information first. Does this child have any challenges like a learning disability or is it possible he fits somewhere on the autism or Asperger's spectrum? That might change how I would proceed, and I would probably seek help from his parents for ideas on that. If not, I would look at other things too. Is he really bright and easily bored? Does he *want* to be there? Or is this something his parents just signed him up for? Does he have close friendships with anyone else on the team?
> If he wants to be there, and is really interested in being an active and engaged team member, then I would simply treat him as if he already were that. I would hold that vision of him, and treat him respectfully, and model for him how I want him to speak to me and how I expect him to treat others. I wouldn't let him take my attention away from others to the point where it takes away from others' experience of the team. I would set clear boundaries, but I would just say things like, "It's not okay to speak to Timmy that way," and then I would turn and talk to Timmy in a respectful way, modeling that for him, and then move on. I wouldn't dwell, I wouldn't send him out of the room, etc. I would treat him like I would expect my spouse or my co-worker or my supervisor at work to treat me.
> One idea might be to give different team members certain roles or jobs that you rotate at different practices. We have done that before. Sort of like putting each person in charge of one thing per session or per week, or even for the whole season. It gives them a sense of leadership, a feeling that their job is important and their presence is needed. And I mean real roles, not busy work, different things that need to be done. So, everyone still works on and helps out with all facets of the challenge, but there is one person who makes sure that it all gets done, and holds his fellow teammates accountable. For example, put one person in charge of internet research, one person in charge of interviews, another in charge of checking the game updates every day and reporting them back to the team. You could do this for the whole season or change it up.
> It's hard to know how much of a problem it is without examples of how the child is behaving, but if I really felt like it was too much for me to do on my own, and it was affecting everyone's FLL experience, I wouldn't hesitate to ask one of his parents to come to practices and volunteer as an extra adult, just to have an extra set of hands. Then you could maybe break up into smaller groups, have one group work on research and the other on the robot, then switch. That might keep kids engaged and getting along better with smaller group interactions. But I wouldn't single out the child, and I wouldn't make any deals like "if you don't do this, then XYZ will happen", I would feel like that would just reinforce his image as the disruptive kid.
> I would think about what motivates me at work. What makes me want to be engaged in my job and do well. Research shows it isn't reward systems, that is temporary, and productivity actually dips down even lower than before the incentive program was introduced.
> Good luck! I feel like volunteering your time mentoring these kids is a great contribution, and who knows, maybe he will be an engineer one day because of you. :)
> Nanobots Coach
> On Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 12:09 PM, John Barrett <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> How do you deal with a team member who thrives on negative attention?
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