Disruptive students are one of teachers’ biggest frustrations in the classroom. They make it difficult for both students and teachers to focus on the business of learning. Teachers wonder how they can make students start behaving and stop disrupting. Sadly, they can’t.
We want to make kids be good, after all, that is what is best for them (and us!). Boy, do we try to make them be good, trying all kinds of things that don’t provide us with a real solution. Instead, read on to learn what works and what doesn’t, and try out these strategies in your classroom.
Punishment: We threaten, “If you don’t stop that right now then you don’t get any recess!” (which, as you know is more of a punishment for the teacher than the student anyway). The problem with punishment is that it just makes everyone feel bad, but doesn’t actually change anything.
Negative Attention: Of course, we aren’t purposely giving kids negative attention. Yet, when we nag them to stop, constantly reprimand them, yell, and focus on that student we give them what they crave – attention.
Bribe: When nagging and punishing don’t work, we turn to bribery. We promise parties, candy, treats, extra recess, and more if kids will just stop whatever annoying thing they are doing. Again, this doesn’t work, for a variety of reasons. Primarily this is because it externalizes motivation, keeping the burden of the student’s behavior on the teacher, not the student.
Jessica Minahand and Nancy Rappaport, authors of The Behavior Code, remind us that:
“Behavior is communication. Behavior has a function. Behavior occurs in patterns,”…“The only behavior teachers can control is their own.”
So, if none of this works, why do we do it? Well, because we don’t know what else to do. Sometimes, we do it because it feels good at the moment when we’re frustrated or angry. Or, we do it because someone else told us it would work.
So, what should we do? It’s important to remember that we can only control ourselves. As much as want to control our students, a child remote hasn’t been invented yet. The good news is that by controlling ourselves, we drastically increase our influence on others.
“During this experiment, you shouldn’t leave your observation post and really must remain silent. The goal is to create a situation in which you expressly avoid whatever negative attention you usually give—verbal or physical—and comprehend your students’ needs more fully.”
Consequences are well thought out negative or positive results of behavior, while punishment is reactive.
It is important to consistently and calmly enforce the rules of the classroom.
Eliminating disruptions from the classroom is a process that takes time. While we can’t control our students, we can influence them. Learning self-control and learning from their consequences is something that will help them throughout their lives, not just for the few short months they are in our classrooms.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.