How to Deal With Disruptive Students
**What's All the Hype?**
Disruptive students are in every classroom across the nation. Teachers are constantly searching for assistance, guidance, ideas, suggestions and relief from this challenge. It is discouraging, yet teachers must remember that they are the source of hope for many of these children and the person who plays a most important role in their lives. A teacher's words and actions can affect a child forever. Are you ready to accept this challenge? If so, read on. . .
**Know Your Students**
Key to assisting a child in changing behavior is knowing the child's background and home life. Make the effort to call home and invite the parents to come to meet you. If they cannot come or are unwilling to come, talk to them on the phone. Begin the conversation with something positive you know about this child. The parents may have never heard a good word about their child and you will put them at ease. This may help to open lines of communication. If possible, you want the family to work with you. Talk about your goals for their child and your eagerness to work with them. Don't be discouraged with the initial communication. They may be hesitant at first, but your persistence through calls, meetings and positive notes sent home will hopefully lead them to trust you. If there is no phone, mail letters to them. Find every way possible to keep the lines of communication open. Persistence is key to the success of this effort.
Take time to find out what this student likes, hobbies, talents, and other information and you can use to communicate with this student. You can use an informal inventory for your entire class and not let the student know that the focus is on him/her. This is a great way to get to know your class. This will also help you in motivating the student to want to learn. You can choose books that are of interest to the student to improve reading or simply get him/her to begin reading. If the student is a non-reader, have a volunteer or aide sit and read to the student. Listening is an important skill that is needed in all aspects of learning. The student must believe that you care and one means of displaying this is to know more about him/her.
**Use School Resources**
Use the resources that you have in your school. Approach the guidance counselor and ask if he/she knows more about the family. Has the counselor worked with the family before? What advice does the counselor have to offer you. Possibly ask for help in setting goals for the student. They must be attainable and realistic goals. Small steps at first. You want the student to experience success and want more. If the previous teacher is in your school, you may want to sit with that person and listen. It is important to stay positive when speaking to a previous teacher. We tend to remember the pain and forget that there was some glory, no matter how small. In order to keep the conversation positive, ask about what worked and what good behavior was displayed. In some cases it is very difficult to be positive, but you must remain positive in your thoughts in order to display positive behavior toward this student.
Look in the student's confidential folder to get a total picture and understand the capabilities and effort that is reflected in the file. If the child saw a Resource teacher, speech therapist, etc. , investigate this as well. Collect information and then you are ready to work. Research is the key to the success of this effort.
Now to the heart of the matter. You have looked into the child's background, contacted the family, get goals, used all resources in your school, used an inventory to discover more about the child.. . and you are ready to work. You begin by allowing the child to start with a "clean slate." Whatever that child has done in the past, that was not beneficial or acceptable or respectful, you must be willing to put aside and give a chance to begin anew. If you cannot do this, there will be no change or growth in this child. Your goal is to get this child to trust you. Trust is something that does not come easily to this child and he/she will test you to prove that you really care and will not give up. You must constantly show your belief in him/her so that this child will eventually believe in himself/herself. You are not the target. Try not to take things personally . Remember that the child is suffering and needs help. When he/she lashes out, it is out of frustration and discouragement. It is a way to reach out to you. Your respond is key at this point. Be firm but compassionate. Be direct in your demands but understanding if your demands are not met immediately. The child must become responsible for his/her own actions. In order to attain these goals, success must be experienced. Find some success every day to reward even, if it seems insignificant. The child must gradually grow to want to succeed and then successes will build. A practical example might be: This child seems to have a short attention span and is disorganized. Help the child to become more organized by taping a card to his/her desk with tasks to be performed that day. The card might say: When you arrive in the morning:
1. Put your coat in the closet
2. Put books away.
3. Go to the book center and read with a friend . As you walk around and greet the students, simply put a sticker on the card and offer a few words of praise. Set small goals.
Another example: This child has a hard time walking down the stairs to lunch. Let this child be the line leader or end of the line helper. Find something"important" for him/her so the focus is on the goal and distract from inappropriate behavior. Praise this child in front of the other students. They probably haven't heard good things about this child. You want to change the perception for the child and the other children. You might want to partner this child with a responsible child. Modeling is important in changing behavior. You can be a partner at times also.
**The Bottom Line**
The realities of teaching today are overwhelming. You have 20 or 25 other students to teach. This one student is not the only responsibility you have. This can't take you away from the other students. You have a curriculum to follow. You don't have time to waste. You feel the pressure of testing and accountability. You are continuing your own education and you have another life at home. This is teaching today! You have a choice to make. Either you let all of these responsibilities overwhelm you or you take control of this situation and prioritize the needs before you. Every student in your class is important. Every student must feel that they are the most important person to you. Look at your group and prioritize needs. If giving more attention to the student who has more needs will ultimately benefit the rest of the group, then that is what you must do. Your " teacher instinct" will guide you in your approach to this task. You can give and not take away from the other students. Your challenge remains: to teach every child in your class and give every child what they need to the best of your ability. Will you always feel that you have accomplished this? Certainly not, but you always keep trying and believing that you can make a difference. You are not perfect, but you are the hope and future for the students who sit in front of you everyday. The success is in your effort and perseverance. Your words and actions will affect your students for the rest of their lives!