Ever feel as though you are being pulled in seven directions? Or asked to do so many things at once that you don’t feel as though you are doing any of them well? If you are a teacher, you can relate. Great. Hold that thought.

You may have noticed how student behavioral concerns often manifest in clusters, with deficits blending together. A child struggles to follow directions, get attention appropriately, keep hands to self – and the list goes on. There is a “clumpage“ effect. Rarely is there just one problem behavior – and therein lies the challenge. There are numerous skill deficits, yet the brain can only consciously attend to one thing at a time.

If our goal is for students to break their poor habits and strengthen positive behaviors, we shouldn’t expect them to focus on addressing all of the problems simultaneously. Success rates go up dramatically when we devote our attention to one goal at a time, and specifically, one that is most attainable. Attainable, because if we are successful with one goal, we are more likely to put forth greater effort on the next.

With a new year, comes new resolutions. As you work with students on setting goals, encourage them to choose one on which to focus. Distractibility is already a huge issue in our society. [Squirrel!] As educators we need to not add to this problem by expecting our students to divide their focus exponentially when trying to strengthen their behavioral skills.

PS – I am aware the only dictionary that acknowledges “clumpage” as a real word is the one that is in my head … and I’m okay with that.