I’ve already explored the ‘3 R’s of an Effective Learning Environment” in a series of earlier posts; however, I have a few further points which specifically relate to the effective management of challenging students. In particular, it is extremely important to consider how the rest of your class reacts to your challenging student’s antics.
To see how this looks in practice, I’ve decided to share a recent relief experience (some details changed); one which leads into my next post on teachers’ attitudes and actions.
Today was not an easy one. I was working in a relatively unfamiliar Year 2/3 class, which I had taught for a few hours previously. The fun and games started during Morning Fitness, when we were trying to play Fruit Salad on the oval.
A student came last, and several classmates made that extremely clear to him through their vocal comments and shouting. The next thing I knew, this particular student threw his hat on the ground, and ran off across the oval crying. While I was torn between chasing the kid and looking after the class, from experience, I made my first priority the removal of the audience.
- Your ‘audience’ (i.e. the rest of the class) can significantly escalate these anger/flight situations through insensitive responses and actions.
- While this is usually done inadvertently due to a poor understanding of their peer’s anger/emotions, some children may deliberately spark off the fireworks.
- Always keep an eye on your so-called “innocent” bystanders. Some may not be as innocent as they look.
Sure enough, shouts of “Go home!” from certain children resulted in an extremely irritated teacher and a further alienated student, now sitting on the edge of the oval, crying his eyes out.
After removing the audience, talking to the provocateurs, and asking another teacher to keep an eye on the class for a few minutes, I set off to talk to my wayward student.
- Most children can’t understand their peer’s anger, and an angry child may feel shamed if they lose control of their emotions in front of the class.
- It is important to sensitively acknowledge the student’s emotions as valid and normal. You need to try and work out the purposes & triggers of their emotional / behavioural issues, and explore more positive ways to express & cope with those emotions.
- This may involve working in partnership with the student’s support network - parents, grandparents, school social worker, mentors or psychologist.
- Never underestimate the value of a volunteer mentor or social worker. They can have an amazing impact on your challenging students.
Later in the day, I faced a ‘crisis’ situation with another student. While I knew this particular child had a few issues, I had no real knowledge of his typical behaviours, warning signs, or the purpose of his behaviour. This made an early intervention / prevention impossible.
After returning to the class after an office withdrawal, the student appeared to pose no further problem; however, I soon found him standing at the classroom door throwing rocks (with amazing accuracy) at anyone who came too close.
I took steps to protect my students, trying to keep them at a safe distance; and calmly supported the Deputy Principal’s defusal of the situation. During this time, I became extremely annoyed with the reaction of my ‘captive’ audience, which I perceived as rewarding/supporting the negative behaviour.
- Normally, in this sort of situation, it is imperative to remove the audience – either by removing the misbehaving student, or by removing the class.
- It is virtually impossible to explain a peer’s behaviour to a class for privacy reasons; however, it is essential to teach them how to deal with & strategically ignore certain behaviours or situations.
The Moral of the Story: Never underestimate the influence of the audience.