Classroom Management

Teachers’ Misconceptions

03/03/2017
Better Learning
Donald F. Perras, Ph.D.

Schools with historically depressed academic performance are especially impacted by this scenario. This pattern of coping with challenging school conduct reflects teachers’ inadequate certification training and collegial mentoring, a dilemma that requires remediation.

School administrators must respond to this problem proactively to diminish teachers’ reliance on reactive practices that result in frustration and emotional conflict.

image

As the significance of classroom management continues to dominate public schools, too many teachers are struggling to manage disruptive students. Escalating rates and intensity of misbehavior are associated with chronic achievement issues.

Initially, teachers must understand students’ normative, age -related school behavior. Lacking this knowledge distorts setting appropriate behavioral expectations, a primary factor in conflicts when students fail to follow class rules. This miscalculation fosters behavioral tension between teachers’ inaccurate standards and students’ immaturity or resistance. Videotapes of different developmental stages, checklists of realistic skills and training from school psychologists is warranted.

Miss Emerson’s kindergarten class has a diverse roster of five to six year olds, a blend of some with prior preschool programming and those entering public education for their first time. The class displays a wide range of behavioral skills regarding following directions, sharing, cooperating and independence. Surprised by these differences, she experiments with a variety of behavioral plans to create a positive classroom environment. A better awareness of child development would have simplified her adjustment.

Another major misperception of teachers is their belief that students understand appropriate school conduct. Regardless of age or grade, it is assumed that students have acquired and internalized self-control commensurate with natural maturation. A second grader, by example, can walk quietly in line, while a ninth grader can remain on task during a 40-minute instruction. While more realistic in prior decades with greater parental investment, it’s optimistic to anticipate this skill in today’s learners, particularly from families coping with social economic stress. Administrators should highlight their community’s demographic data for beginning teachers unfamiliar with the school’s history, since managing these daily stressors interferes with teaching behavioral readiness for school, a dramatic shift in 21st century families.

A beginning seventh grade technology teacher, Ms. Ramsey, is baffled by students’ constant chatting during class activities, a natural social impulse of early adolescence. She lectures the group on acting like “middle schoolers,” a request with minimal relevance to students. Depersonalizing this predictable behavior must occur to achieve a compromise. Otherwise, Ms. Ramsey will be deterred from suppressing their self-expression.

A significantly more critical aspect of classroom management is the link between teachers’ affective characteristics and student behavior management. Unique temperamental traits are shaped by countless experiences during life stages, becoming relatively predictable reaching adulthood. As adult educators, these tendencies shape the emotional component of disciplining students’ compliance with established codes of conduct. While not always obvious during hiring interviews, or when assigned to a different school, administrators should carefully evaluate this interface with behavior management. By example, yelling at hyperactive students indicates a need for control, versus reinforcing sitting quietly during class. Teacher preparation, however, rarely addresses the affective domain, concentrating on pedagogical content, instead. This weakens potential career productivity and longevity. Recognizing the interaction of these traits with classroom management tasks is paramount to neutralizing the destructive effects of misbehavior. Periodic private discussions with staff are valuable to minimize unproductive reactions.

Dr. Landis has a sensitive, passive nature that complements his engagement with his French III class of 12th graders. He responds timidly to minor disruptions, displaying a sense of disappointment during active participation activities like role-playing skits. Unable to create mutually respectful relationships gradually deteriorates his professional competence and satisfaction. Expressing a more assertive demeanor is imperative to improving student performance.

Perceptive administrators are alert to teachers’ emotional displeasure with students’ disrespectful misbehavior toward authority. Regardless of staff seniority or training, this belief is readily apparent in schools with pervasive teacher retention crises. Grades six through twelve students, in particularly, are notorious for resisting school rules, a function of adolescence and academic rigor, further aggravating teachers’ frustration. Unfortunately, expending emotional energy to manage misbehavior creates a reactive attitude that impedes using preventative techniques. This ultimately produces a cycle of misbehavior that perpetuates a relationship of distrust and manipulation destined to fail. Administrators should counsel staff enmeshed in this destructive pattern.

Mr. Garcia, an 18-year veteran math teacher, is constantly annoyed by his third - period remedial algebra’s non-compliant behavior. Expressing disappointment by arguing with specific students results in refusal to participate and unfinished assignments. Believing this approach decreases misbehavior is a faulty logic that will maintain the same outcome, actually fostering more manipulative acting out. Until his emotional responses are restrained, students’ motivation to thwart his authority will increase.

To compensate for the relentless pressure of balancing instructional goals with behavior management challenges, teachers routinely resort to corrective practices to deter disruptiveness. Though recommended by like-minded colleagues, especially veterans, punitive strategies such as detention, provoke reliance on escalating consequences to achieve relief. A self-fulfilling prophecy develops to apply extreme measures to curtail negative conduct, including office referrals, requests for administrative reprimands, and demands for suspension This is especially evident in teachers using their individual judgment to manage classes, instead of following proactive interventions. At risk students quickly realize which faculty employ reactive methods to avoid emotional discomfort. These teachers are targeted because of their personal vulnerability that ultimately mandates external support. Beginning teachers should be acutely aware of this potential misjudgment to avoid reliance on others to succeed. It is advisable for administrators to frequently observe these classes and conduct monthly conversational meetings that examine alternative strategies.

Praised for her instructional skills with fourth graders, Mrs. Patel still has excessive office referrals for misbehavior. Stressed by distractible, talkative students, she relies on threatening consequences to maintain order. Intolerant of students’ disruption of lessons, Mrs. Patel quickly ejects offenders to the hallway, requesting administrator help. Abdicating her management responsibility empowers students’ misbehavior, a reality that will deplete Mrs. Patel’s commitment. Without adopting a preventative mindset, her stress reactions will eventually contribute to emotional burnout.

In summation, all teachers must adopt a school-based management system that respects students’ developmental levels, allocates resources to motivate compliant behavior, and minimizes the interpersonal conflicts associated with reducing misbehavior. Personal reflection is essential to succeed at his task. Administrative leadership is essential to accomplish this goal.

Donald F. Perras has been an educator since 1967. He specializes in programs to help educators deal with students who have serious emotional disturbance (SED) and related behavior disorders. For information visit www.donperras.com.
Comments & Ratings
rating
  Comments

There is no comment.

Issue 18.3 | Winter/Spring 2017

Southeast Education Network

Our Mission: to reinvigorate the spirit of American education