Classroom Management Strategies for Teacher-Caused Student Misbehavior
Teacher-Caused Student Misbehavior
Bad kids are just bad kids, right? And no matter what you do, you can't control bad kids in the classroom?
In fact, there are a variety of teacher-caused student misbehaviors. Yes, that's right—you probably don't want to hear it, but if your classroom is out of control, it might actually be at least partially your fault and you may not even realize it! Luckily, once you identify your own missteps and mixed signals, you can take steps to correct your actions. Whether you are currently struggling to manage your class or want to learn the skills you'll need to prevent problems in the future, this list can help you identify the causes of common teacher-caused student misbehaviors.
Are you Capricious?
Do you have a clearly-presented set of classroom rules that you follow every single time? If not, you may be encouraging students to test your limits. If you appear to arbitrarily enforce rules by punishing a behavior sometimes but not others, or by giving out inconsistent punishments, students may be tempted to act out just to see what you will do. Also, if students realize they can get away with things, they will. Even so-called good kids will be tempted to misbehave if you hardly ever punish for minor infractions.
For example, I remember one particular class in high school with a very capricious teacher. This was an AP/IB class filled with good students, but when we realized the teacher either didn't notice or didn't call us out when we ate in class, kids started opening snacking during instruction. Then when we realized she didn't say anything if we were standing at the wrong lab table, we started hanging out with other lab groups when we should have been conducting experiments. The teacher didn't even break up an on-going chess game until it had lasted for about three class periods! We were all good kids, but the teacher's apparent lack of instruction made us see what we could get away with just for the fun of it.
Fortunately, this problem is preventable. On the first day of class, hand out a set of classroom rules. Keep them simple, to the point, and stated in the positive. For example, say "By the time the tardy bell rings, students will be in their seats and working on the bell ringer question." It is concise and tells students exactly what they will do, not what they will not do. Make sure they understand the rules—you can even quiz them on them at the end of the first week!
If you started the year without rules, introducing them part way through the course will be difficult, but you can make it work. You need to write up classroom rules as soon as possible and enforce them every single time. You're not making friends with the students if you let them get away with small misbehaviors—you are causing them to abandon any respect they had for you and tempting them to act out even more.
You must always "keep the small things big" by correcting every infraction of your classroom rules, even minor ones. If you don't enforce the small rules, students will escalate their behavior to test your limits.
Do You Assign Extra Work as Punishment?
Assigning extra work, whether it is additional reading or writing, is a traditional punishment, but it is also highly ineffective and, in fact, detrimental. After a certain age, most students aren't thrilled about showing up for school in the morning. If you heap extra work on them, you strengthen their belief that school is a miserable chore. They will show up to class sullen and not excited or eager to learn. Writing sentences or copying pages, another traditional punishment, is also inappropriate, creates resentment, and encourages students to hate educational activities.
This one is really easy to fix: Don't assign extra work as punishment for misbehavior! Instead, consider taking something away, like points, time, or extra credit. Make sure the punishment fits the crime, so to speak, and is directed only at the students responsible.
Do you Give Group Punishments?
If you are showing an educational video and several students keep talking during the presentation, it may be tempting to give an unannounced quiz on the video's content. Just like assigning extra work, this is an inappropriate punishment that will only anger students and make them defiant, especially those that were genuinely trying to pay attention (but couldn't hear over the chatting). If you make a habit of group punishments in response to a small number of students acting up, your class will quickly become disrespectful, or even downright hostile.
Once again, this is really easy to fix. Don't give group punishments. It is very tempting sometimes, but it is short-sighted vindictiveness, not an appropriate classroom management technique. Instead, focus the punishment only on the students who were involved.
Are you guilty of these behaviors?
Classroom Management Strategies
While there are many reasons students act out, if you do not enforce your rules (or enforce them only haphazardly), assign extra work as punishment, or punish the group for the individual's misbehavior, your class' behavior problems will increase throughout the year.
Fortunately, these three major causes of teacher-caused student misbehavior are easy to identify and correct. If you've already committed one or more of these errors this semester, it may be difficult to regain control of your class, but it is possible. The First Day of School is the best-selling classroom management book on the market and it can help you regain control, no matter how late in the year it is. If you are about to start a new course, make sure to create a clear list of rules and expectations and diligently enforce them to prevent these misbehaviors from erupting in your classroom.