Seeing past the behavior

Looking back on your life as a student, how many of you would be able to describe yourself as a good student, a well behaved student, or maybe even a perfect student?  I know it might be hard to imagine, but I don’t know that I would be able to use any of those phrases to describe my schooling career.  I definitely wasn’t a bad student, but I wasn’t a perfect student either.  Some classes I did well in, while others I struggled with.

As I was writing my last post on responses to student behavior, most of the strategies were for those more serious issues and serious behaviors.  But not always do we have behavior that we would call serious, and not always is the behavior a function of some type of trauma – more likely it’s those slightly annoying (maybe even seriously annoying!) things that kids do in the classroom.  When I think back on the classes where my behavior wasn’t so great, I don’t know that any of the strategies I talked about in my last post would have been any help for my teacher.

A lot of times, the behaviors we're dealing with are a lot more like Calvin's...
A lot of times, the behaviors we’re dealing with are a lot more like Calvin’s…

I can tell you that the classes where my behavior was poor, there was a pattern.  The pattern that I have come to realize over the years is that normally when I was in a class that was hard for me academically, I would often choose to goof around.  I’m sorry to my freshman English teacher, and my sophomore biology teacher, but the truth was, I didn’t do well in those classes.  I struggled to understand what I needed to do to be successful, and as a result, I chose to goof around.  In that freshman English class, I had several friends and I never would have wanted to appear like I didn’t get it in front of them.  So what did I do instead?  I goofed off.  I’m not going to list the things that I may or may not have been responsible for here, but if you’re dying to know, just ask me.

My behavior, and in turn my relationship with my teacher, was a direct function of how well I understood what was going on in class.  When I wasn’t getting something, my behavior went downhill.  It was a lot easier to appear as the jokester than to be the dumb kid who didn’t get it.  And I’m sure that my teachers who saw that sort of behavior didn’t think too highly of me.

We’ve all had situations where a student seems to struggle behaviorally in one teacher’s class and does well in another.  Now that many of you are teaching blocks of classes (STEM or Humanities) you may have begun to notice patterns with some of your students where their behavior is different within the same block.  As you notice patterns where a student’s behavior is different between your classroom and a teammate’s classroom, or even within your block, take a moment to reflect on what might be the root cause of the behavior.  Is the student struggling in one subject, and not in the other?  Sometimes those struggles bring about the behavior that you see.

I don’t know that I have the solution to these issues, but wanted you to be aware (as a formerly less than perfect student) where the behavior sometimes comes from.  Maybe just the awareness will lead us to be able to make a difference for a student in our classroom.

What ideas do you guys have?  Have you run into situations like these?  Have you found any ways to support those struggling students, and in turn change the behavior?  Does this make you think of any of your current students?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Seeing past the behavior

  1. Over the years, I have had so many students who thrive and shine in music and then I am always shocked to hear that they have major behavior problems in other areas. I do think that a lot of misbehavior happens when you feel inadequate or stupid at something. I think it is best to try and find a time when you can work with these students individually but preferably at a time when others aren’t around so that they aren’t embarassed that their peers might notice they need one-on-one help. I am currently seeing this while we work with some RTI students at the end of the day. There are 3 students. One of them is a complete jokester when the other 2 are around but when it is just him, he is very eager to learn. It is very obvious that he is embarassed to be there with others around because he doesn’t want them to think he isn’t smart.

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  2. Wow… this blog really hits home because I think my high school age son is very much like this! He’d rather be the funny one than the dumb one. I can’t help but wonder whether working deliberately on growth mindset with our students could make an impact here. We don’t want our kids to limit themselves by holding on to black and white thinking that they’re either good at something or they’re not. Once kids have decided they’re not good at something they’re likely to check out. How can we encourage our students to develop the understanding that with the right mindset and learning experiences, they can learn anything?

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    1. I think a growth mindset would have helped me back in those days. I chose to not like the class and the work, and couldn’t shift that mindset, but I’m sure that we can help those students that behave like this.

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