Support for Students with Challenging Behavior

We have created a free guide to building a collaborative process at your school for supporting teachers in their work with students exhibiting challenging behavior. Read more to learn how this process can help you. 

By Momentous Institute | Apr 19, 2022
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Raise your hand if any of these scenarios sound familiar: 

Michael is often caught staring out the window instead of working. His teacher has noticed that he will have a piece of paper and he hasn’t even written his name on it, while other students are more than halfway through the assignment. He rarely, if ever, raises his hand to ask for help. His teacher isn’t sure if he is struggling academically, needs to feel more comfortable asking for help, or if it’s something else entirely. 


Jayden does well academically but struggles to get along with his classmates. He doesn’t seem to have any close connections with other students, and lately conflicts among his peers have gotten increasingly worse. He often gets into fights with classmates at recess and has started engaging in more physical behavior, such as pushing and hitting. His teacher feels that regular classroom management and discipline strategies aren’t working, but doesn’t know what to try next in order to help Jayden and keep the rest of the students safe.  


Camila has had a significant change in mood over the past month. Once a happy and cheerful student, she is now withdrawn and often tearful. She no longer participates in class, and she spends much of her lunch time sitting alone. Her teacher wonders if this sudden change is due to something that happened at school that she doesn’t know about, or maybe something going on at home. She isn’t sure how to approach this and doesn’t know how to encourage Camila to engage again without accidentally putting her in a position that could ultimately do more harm than good.  

Teachers are asked to know a lot. They’re supposed to be experts on academic content, child development, relationships, different cultures, family dynamics, mental health, sensory needs, social emotional development, discipline, and so much more. It’s unreasonable to think that any one person will have all the skills necessary to effectively manage every scenario that can arise in a classroom with 20+ children. Yet we often put teachers in this position and expect that they’ll have the answers.  

In the cases of Michael, Jayden, and Camila above, support from others would help their teachers consider different interventions that their teacher training may not have covered. A licensed mental health professional may be able to ask questions that identifies trends or patterns with the behavior that can lead to insight. A family guidance coordinator or administrator may know about something happening in the home that the teacher is not aware of. An instructional coach may be able to offer insight on instructional practices that can support their other interventions.  

In order to create a collaborative environment, it is helpful to have a formal process. This is where SIM comes in.  

SIM stands for Strategic Intervention Model. This is a process we use at Momentous School to support teachers in their work with children who are exhibiting challenging behavior. After several years of successful implementation, we documented the work into a free guide that other schools can replicate. You can download a copy of the guide here.  

So what is SIM? 

SIM is a process by which teachers and school support staff, including mental health professionals and administrators, team up. Together they provide comprehensive support to teachers who are experiencing difficulty managing students who are struggling socially, emotionally, behaviorally and/or academically.  

Each student in the school is evaluated by their classroom teacher on a variety of measures. Based on this data, select students are identified who require additional support. Teachers then work through interventions throughout the school year, designed to target specific skills. These interventions and their results are discussed during monthly meetings between teachers and other school personnel.  

The monthly meetings are collaborative, problem-solving touch points where everyone around the room shares updates and suggestions, asks questions and identifies an action plan for the following month.  

While this process is ultimately about supporting these individual students, it also benefits the teachers who learn critical skills for managing challenges for the whole class or for future students who may demonstrate similar needs. The end result is a school that is more collaborative and has a greater toolbox of social emotional skills.  

If this sounds like something that you could use in your school, we encourage you to implement SIM at your campus. The free guide contains: 

- What SIM is/what SIM is not 

- Information about the different parts of SIM: the assessment, interventions and meetings 

- Postures and approaches to use in the SIM process 

- How to introduce SIM to your campus, including sample scripts and a letter template 

- A yearlong overview of the SIM process 

- Format for SIM meetings, including sample scripts for the first meeting 

- A video example of an effective SIM meeting 

- Sample meeting script based on real-life scenarios 

- Meeting templates 

- Sample notes using a yearlong example of one child’s SIM process 

… and more.  

This free guide was made possible through the support of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Get your free copy today here.