The Disruptive Student

Although covered elsewhere, it needs to be reemphasized that the best answer to discipline problems is to prevent, rather than cope with them. The best way to do that is through well-organized lessons that your students understand and can complete. It is no accident that students who have the greatest academic difficulties make up a disproportionately large share of those with discipline problems. Problems from these students can often be prevented or, at least minimized, by ensuring that they can enjoy some level of success. Also, tedious or boring lessons will create their own problems. While we can hardly limit our curriculum to that which is intrinsically fascinating or entertaining, we can provide variety in order to sustain interest. Finally, while still speaking of prevention, your relationship with the class as a whole bears directly on the ease with which you can control individuals who would be disruptive. An atmosphere of mutual respect tends to isolate misbehaving students. That insures that they will remain individual problems rather than serve as a catalyst for class-wide discontent.

The first step in dealing with disruptive students is to identify the goal of their misbehavior. Most are just trying to get attention from their peers. Peer group acceptance is perhaps the most powerful motivator for young teens. The class clown is the obvious example. This is the kid who has to periodically make some humorous comment. As pointed out previously, if kept under control, such a student can actually be an asset. Directing some of the occasional classroom banter and quips their way will often be enough to satisfy them. This way, you control when they are to be the the center of attention, not they. They will appreciate the opportunity to be center stage, and you won’t be interrupted at inopportune moments.

Although much less common, some students will try to get attention from you, the teacher. This is fairly obvious in students who constantly ask unnecessary questions or pretend to have difficulty just so you’ll spend more time with them. Others will misbehave and then feel rewarded when you reprimand them. These kids are recognized as the ones who act out regardless of the notice they get from others.

Finally, many students who are bored or discouraged or frustrated with the work will misbehave to break the monotony or to release themselves from a task where they feel success is impossible. This, in part, explains why underachievers often cause behavioral problems. No one can withstand repeated assaults on their ego. Once kids conclude they have no hope of succeeding, they will find ways to deny the importance of your class and will then interfere with it.

Go to “Behavior Modification for Individual Students

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