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Teaching & Learning
Solutions to Misbehavior in the Classroom

Solutions to Misbehavior in the Classroom

August 14, 2017

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There is a plethora of research about classroom management, procedures and expectations. Good educators recognize that behavior whether positive or negative is a form of communication and as such, it is essential for the teacher to be proactive in teaching the behavior they expect and anticipating the one, they do not want. In this article, I will focus on understanding and preventing the latter.


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At times, challenging behaviors seem to emerge out of nowhere, teachers feel blindsided and as a result, their reaction is less than optimal. However, as professionals, we are expected to discern patterns and analyze recurring events if we are to prevent misconduct.

How?'Will the student making those disruptive sounds stop? Fair warning! I am gathering evidence and I'm wearing a wire.'

Misbehavior has seven stages and they are as follows:

Calm: this is when the students are doing exactly what you want them to do. At this stage, the teacher can focus on rewarding the good behavior encouraging her pupils to continue doing well. A teacher need to capitalize on this phase, as it is the stage where the students are most receptive.

Trigger: this is something that sets off the unwanted behavior. For example, pressure from the teacher to perform or a merciless comment from another student (teasing). Sometimes it can be a simple instruction to stop talking or an accidental gesture that made the expensive bag drop to the floor. This a window of opportunity where the teacher can stop the unwanted behavior from occurring by “nipping it in the bud”. Empathizing (knowledge the behavior), distracting the student (refocusing the class), and redirecting (suggest a positive action forward) can work well in stopping the potential misbehavior.

Agitation: this is the stage were students’ emotions gain momentum. If you are attuned to your students’ behaviors, you will be party to a show of frustration. Students may bite their nails, become unfocused, tap with their feet, grimace or disconnect from the classroom by daydreaming. This is a perilous stage because this is where a teacher’s intervention becomes critical. While it is important not embarrass the student with the misbehavior, it is equally essential to keep the behavior from escalating. Ask the student to step out for a little chat, afford him /her the opportunity to bring his/her emotions under control (a small break) or if possible remove the trigger (separate students).

Acceleration: this is the stage where student will issue an open invitation for an argument or a fight. At this point, students have begun to lose control. They will attempt to engage you into a negative exchange. The teacher can turn away, refuse to argue, state the consequences, give the student time to think (if possible) and follow through. Other possible interventions are time out, behavioral contract, meeting with the parents and a referral to counseling.

Peak: in this phase, student experience total loss of control and cannot think clearly. Student may resort to destructive behavior or self-injury. At this point, safety is the main concern. Make sure other students are out harm’s way and either let the behavior run its course or get help in removing the student from the classroom. It is imperative that the teacher keeps control of the classroom (physically and emotionally) because of the mentioned safety concerns. In addition, the teacher needs to document and follow up with serious consequences in mind.

Deceleration: at this stage, student is returning to normal. He or she will show signs of breathing easier. Student will elect to follow your instructions or remove himself from the classroom. The teacher can turn the focus back to the lesson but needs to make sure to praise the student’s good choices (e.g., thank you for returning to your seat). Teacher should be consistent in implementing the rules and following up.

Recovery: at this stage, the student has returned to the calm stage and the teacher should focus on the positive behavior.

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In conclusion, I think that we all agree that real learning cannot take place in a poorly managed classroom. Understanding the stages of negative behavior is critical in preventing it, reversing it and if lucky, affording a student an opportunity to achieve a fresh start.




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August 14, 2017
Teaching & Learning