Disinterested students? Distracted students? Defiant students? It’s tough teaching in a classroom where a combination of these students can create a less than conducive learning environment. It’s important therefore to be aware that it is possible to address all of these behaviour problems by careful planning and attentiveness to the dynamics of the classroom.
One of the most important steps to take when beginning with the class each year is to lay down the ground rules of behaviour. While many of us may think it’s just common sense that a child shouldn’t talk if the teacher is trying to teach, or that a child should not challenge a teacher or rest his head on the table as and when he feels like it, students do need to have these rules of expected behaviour established. Often, some students want to test the boundaries. And often, they respect the rules when it is re-established each year by a new teacher. The reality is that many teachers do not actively acknowledge expected rules of behaviour and students get away with stretching them.
In the case of extreme behaviour such as physically violent behaviour or wilful disobedience in the classroom, the teacher must always strive to identify the reason for the behaviour. It is always helpful to know your students. Some students may not normally display such behaviour. It helps when a teacher knows that a personal problem such as a clash with another student or a family situation has led to the erroneous behaviour. At times such as this, a quiet chat with the student can work wonders. It often works best to intervene unobtrusively to diffuse potential flare-ups. Separating students or giving a student time out by getting him to sit by himself away from the class can allow students the opportunity to reflect on their behaviour. It is always best to follow up with a quiet chat with the student to ensure awareness of the unacceptable behaviour. Always get students to identify their own errors – it ensures self-awareness and accountability.
On the other hand, some students are consistently badly behaved. In dealing with such students it is often necessary to talk with the students privately about their behaviour. Often, when students realise that a teacher is genuinely interested in them they will reconsider their behaviour. As students enter the classroom, the teacher could quietly greet a regularly disruptive student and ask Are we going to be well-behaved today? Often, the reminder is all the student needs to try to maintain control of bad behaviour. In dealing with the most distracting behaviours, it is best that the school supports the teacher in the classroom. Once students know that the school has clear, effective consequences in place for bad behaviour, and that their teachers are aware of and willing to follow through with the line of action, they are more likely to watch their behaviour. When students experience inconsistencies in the follow-through actions of teachers, they take advantage of the situation.
Finally, lesson planning. When students are actively engaged in class they are less likely to be disruptive or disinterested in class. It can be difficult catering to the varying needs and styles of students, but a skilful teacher will attempt to craft lessons that incorporate a variety of activities that will engage every student in the class. Students can easily become bored or disengaged when assigned work is too difficult or insufficient assistance is given to them. Recognise which students may require some additional help and plan for it within the classroom. As invaluable as group activities can be, disruptive students often take advantage of the situation and create a noisy, ineffective learning environment. Clear rules and monitoring on the part of teachers will ensure this is controlled.
When students experience successes in their learning and behaviour, they are less likely to act up in class. Every teacher can be effective in creating a classroom conducive for learning. All it calls for is consistency in action, consideration for the student and careful planning.
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