Though disruptive behavior captures the lion’s share of attention, all behavior challenges in the classroom may not be what we commonly think of as misbehavior. Motivations such as the need for attention or power can cause children to act out to fulfill their needs in ways which interrupt the teaching process. But other less obvious and disruptive behaviors also cause the classroom learning situation to be less than optimal for many students. Children who lack motivation to learn or are excessively fearful also present problems stemming from their behavior. Such problems seldom disrupt the classroom, but they certainly interfere with learning for the children involved. These ‘behavior’ problems can also be remediated by a caring and concerned teacher.
The most obvious behavior problems in the classroom fall under the category of disruptive behavior. These behaviors can run the gamut from behaviors which endanger children in the classroom to excessive talking or sharpening pencils at the wrong time.
Any behavior which threatens the safety of children must be dealt with quickly and decisively. The school’s emergency procedure must be put into play. Communication with those outside the classroom should be quickly established and emergency resources in the school brought to the classroom immediately. The aggressive child needs to be isolated from the others as quickly as possible, through teacher intervention at first and then by authorities outside the classroom.
A child who is constantly aggressive may need the help of a special classroom where he can learn anger management techniques, while working on the underlying causes of his aggressive behavior. Such constant outbursts are beyond the scope of ordinary classroom behavior and are a significant call for greater help.
Less threatening problems can be headed off by having a set of rules and procedures and making those known to the children in the first days of school. In later grades children can even be instrumental in setting up rules for their classroom and their cooperative planning often leads to better compliance. Children need to know when to get out of their seats, use the restroom, sharpen pencils, and speak out freely. When children forget these rules, a quick reminder will usually correct the situation. Sometimes just being very aware of the children in the classroom and moving to stand next to children who are whispering to each other or simply daydreaming, is enough to get things back on track.
Behavior charts and the awarding of stars can be effective in the early grades. A reward system using more sophisticated awards, such as extra computer time, can often be effective in higher grades. The reward must be of value to the particular child to motivate behavior change. Such programs can be very effective when used correctly.
Oftentimes students themselves can help to modify the behavior in their classroom. When children realize and buy into the personal value of their education, they will be motivated to try to stop behaviors which make learning more difficult for them, such as excessive talking between classmates or cheating on tests.
When a misbehaving child has frustrated the teacher to a breaking point, a private conference with the child can often help to both solve the problem and get student and teacher connected again on a personal level. Sitting and talking one-to-one reassures the child that he is important to the teacher and lets the teacher see him as a child and not a bothersome disruption.
Keeping children busily productive is often the best way to prevent problems. A child who is happily involved in an interesting challenge doesn’t have time to think of ways to disrupt things.
Children who are disinterested in learning pose a different sort of problem for teachers. Sometimes their detachment is caused by multiple long term frustrations in trying to learn material, which may have been presented when the child was developmentally unable to benefit from the learning. Helping to close those gaps in knowledge can often get the child back on the right track to learning. Extra tutoring, worksheets sent home for parental assistance, or after school or recess sessions may allow the child to make quantum leaps now in catching up with peers. As the child becomes more successful, his self-esteem also flowers and it can be a life changing experience for the formerly disinterested learner.
Other children seem indifferent to education because they simply don’t see the purpose of education in their lives. By tapping into the child’s outside interests and linking those to school subjects, you may be able to catch the child’s attention and show him how acquiring the skills of education can be of benefit in his future life.
Fearful children pose another problem which interferes with learning. Finding the source of the child’s fears may enable you to both understand and act to remove those fears from his life. Dangerous family situations may be remediated by bringing in social services to help in the home. Unreasonable fears the child harbors could be dealt with by a therapist. Removing the fears of such a child frees his mind to then tackle his educational challenges in a logical, calm manner.
Teaching can be a challenge, especially when students’ needs conflict with the teaching process. But without such challenges, teaching would be a rote process of simply filling quiet little jugs from the font of our learning. How much more fascinating it is to solve the puzzles each child may present as each unique day unfolds!