By Jennifer Richardson

I remember reading a parenting book written by a local pediatrician. He spoke about toddler behavior and reducing the battles that you may encounter during this challenging phase of development. One suggestion he gave involved toddlers and plants. He talked about two options. You can leave plants around your living room and spend endless hours telling your toddler not to touch them, or, you could put them out of your toddler’s reach until they are old enough to stay away from them. This made perfect sense to me and therefore, I put items out of the reach of my toddler. I removed the battles.

Yesterday when we returned from April vacation, I noticed a new paper towel dispenser had been installed in my classroom. It is one of those automatic ones that dispense a paper towel when you wave in front of it. I am a behavior teacher. When students enter my room, they are often emotionally dysregulated. They often look for ways to communicate their distress, and that often involves property destruction or creating a mess. I saw the writing on the wall. I would be spending time every day asking my impulsive, dysregulated, and often out-of-control students to leave the paper towel dispenser alone. The new dispenser had been in my room less than 24 hours, and I had already had to make rules about paper towels. UGH!

WHY? There was nothing wrong with my old dispenser. Why didn’t they look around the room to figure out that this may not be the place for an automatic dispenser? No lock on the bathroom door, locks on all cabinets, shelves bolted to the wall, and minimal décor are signs that this room may be different than the others.

This morning I had a conversation with our building custodian. I asked him if the custodial staff hated me. He chuckled and told me that the word was out, and yes they hate me. I proceeded to vent about the automatic, paper towel dispenser in a behavior room and how they have added one more thing for me to manage behaviorally. They had already had to replace my sink faucet and soap dispenser. Why would they think an automatic paper towel dispenser would be successful in this space?

His chuckling continued and he offered to return the older model to my classroom. Yes. Please provide me with the old-school, pull-from-the-bottom model. One less battle to fight. And no, I do not have plants in my classroom. I am not going to fight that battle either…

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