Dealing with Disruptive Classroom Behavior

Disruptive behaviour is not only counterproductive to students’ progress, time costly and frustrating but it can also have a negative effect on the other students in the classroom.

Every classroom has that one child that you secretly hope would be sick today or on vacation or just went to someone else’s classroom by mistake and hopefully will stay there. You feel guilty for even thinking that way about a child but then you justify it by how much better the class goes the day they are not there.

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What is important to remember is that every child strives for love, affection and acceptance. Acting out is usually a desperate attempt to gain those merits and at worst, a cry for help.

The first step is to figure out the source of misbehavior.

Attention hog – at times children do not get enough attention at home no matter how hard they try. Their parents are either too busy or too indulgent to see the child as a human being. In my classrooms I have found it helpful to make these children the class leaders. It may seem counterproductive to assign a prominent, seemingly rewarding, role to a misbehaving child. But quite often it provides them with a sense of purpose and recognition. The attention craving is satisfied and they now feel not only recognized but worthy. I had one of the worst students in school go from a little hellion all teachers dreaded to a quickly progressing determined student just because of that.

Know-it-all – this child is always at the front of the class, hand up, squealing with frustration when you call on another student. They love homework, they get a thrill from tests and love to have conversations with you about the subjects within and without the classroom. These children tend to be a version of the above-mentioned Attention hogs. At home the parents value their knowledge and achievement more than the child themselves so the only way to get attention is to showcase their knowledge. It is important to make this child feel valued but also acknowledge other children, thus assigning them a desk mate who is shy, a little slow or with slight developmental responsibilities, can help. This way their desire for acknowledgement is quenched by your appreciation of their help, the weaker student is getting personal attention from the best student in class and the know-it-all actually has a purpose now and will allow you to deal with the rest of the class.

Day-dreamer – this child can either be too advanced for the lesson you are trying to teach or so far behind that they have simply given up and are now staring out of the window, doodling or have adopted a glassy-eyed stare with which they are now sending shivers down your spine. Are they even alive? It is important to first figure out which one of these problems the child has. If too advanced, you can follow the above steps and make them “little helpers” by helping you with the weaker students, explain the subject in a simpler way or even to use them to do a demo of what you want others to do. Keep them busy, focused and appreciated. If they are the left-behind kind, then you need to either pair them with the stronger students or schedule some one-on-one with them to catch them up. Either way, they will need your attention to get through the divide or fall hopelessly behind and soon become bullies and a serious classroom management problem.

Class Clown – with this student you have a love/hate relationship. They are funny, charismatic and at times obnoxious. While you want to keep your classrooms light and fun, children still have a problem with timing. Assign a task to them which will allow them to splash out that comedic energy at the beginning of the class and then they can focus on the task at hand. You can allow them to do small skits, tell a story, do a short performance or even make announcements for you. Assign them to be the one to moderate the games or hand out the materials. Have a chat with them one on one explaining your agreement to them. “I would like for you to tell a joke at the beginning of each class but after that you must focus on work and let everyone else work as well”. Just like the first case, this child is simply craving attention and recognition.

Bully – this is the most disruptive and negative out of all the types of classroom management problems. Children are rarely bad by birth, there are usually many factors involved, like problems at home, personal insecurity, trouble with friends, etc. It is important to get to the root of the problem and delicately address the issue with the child. Creating a judgement-free zone filled with trust, acceptance and appreciation is important.

The most crucial thing to remember is that they are children and you are the adult, you have the power to affect the rest of their lives positively or negatively. So which will it be?

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