There’s no doubt that one of the hardest careers out there to excel in is that of a teacher. Not only is a teacher tasked with the responsibility of molding young, impressionable minds and preparing them for future academic and professional success, but they have to deal with the myriad of different personalities and behaviors that different students exhibit.
That’s why understanding behavior is so crucial to success in the education field. Behavior is communication, and every time a student behaves in a particular way, they are trying to communicate something to the teacher.
It is part and parcel of a teacher’s responsibility to correctly interpret and respond to that behavior in an edifying manner for the student. Saying that, however, is one thing. Actually doing it is another.
If you’re a teacher trying to get a better handle on how to understand the behaviors that your students are exhibiting, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll provide you with eight truths that you need to absorb as you manage your classroom.
1. Different Personalities Produce Different Behaviors
The first thing to keep in mind is that different personalities produce different behaviors. The simple fact is that different students have highly individual, unique personalities. Thus, they communicate in different ways.
A loud extrovert may communicate his or her desire for attention with frequent disruptions to the classroom. A shy introvert, however, may communicate their frustration with an inability to make friends by acting out in other ways that aren’t as public.
Remember that different personalities produce different behaviors, so seeing the same behavior across two different students with different personalities doesn’t mean that they are communicating the same thing.
2. Background Matters
Each student’s background will have a very significant impact on how they behave in the classroom. Different cultures have different expectations regarding behavior. If you deal with a significant international population, for instance, you may be exposed to Asian cultures where all elders are supposed to be treated with respect.
Keep in mind that background doesn’t only refer to culture — it also refers to the income level of the student’s family, whether or not they have two loving parents, how many siblings they have and what those inter-sibling interactions look like, etc..
3. Problems at Home
When a student is experiencing problems at home, whether that’s income issues or abuse, that will manifest itself in the student’s behavior in the classroom. The student may see school as a safe space where they can act out in whatever way they want without fear of getting reprimanded.
It’s a teacher’s job to understand whether or not bad behavior is a symptom of problems at home. Although it’s not your job to fix these problems, it is your responsibility to be accommodating and try to help the student to work through those issues.
4. Possible Trauma
If the child has experienced some kind of trauma over the course of their childhood, that can have a very significant impact on their behavior. This is especially true when the trauma has not yet been dealt with properly.
The mental health stigma that exists means that many children who have experienced trauma in their lives may be wrestling with mental issues that they haven’t worked out yet.
These children may need to see a therapist in order to get these issues sorted out so that they can acclimatize to normal social interactions and behavior.
5. Uncover Patterns
Behavior is often a very patterned beast — you’ll notice trends in a student’s behavior that line up with events in his or her life. For instance, take the example of a student whose parents are divorced.
If the mother is a better caregiver and parent than the father, then chances are that the student may behave worse when he or she is living with the father or shortly after visitation by him.
Many other patterns exist that can be responsible for bad behavior.
6. Positive Reinforcement
One of the ways that you can deal with behavior as a teacher is to provide positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the idea that by rewarding good behavior, you can get someone to do it more often.
So when you see a student making an active effort to fix one of their behavioral issues, reward that behavior. It doesn’t have to be with anything material — even something as small as a compliment or acknowledgment of their effort can have a tremendous effect.
7. Negative Reinforcement
On the flip side, one can also consider negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is simply the punishment of bad behavior in the hopes that the student will forego the bad behavior because of his or her dislike for the punishment.
Again, the negative reinforcement can be something as small as a carefully worded, gentle rebuke. Many students care for their teacher and will hate to disappoint them, so by simply showing your disappointment in their actions you can curb poor behavior.
8. There’s Never a Lost Cause
Last but not least, remember that there’s never a lost cause. Even those students who seem to act out the most and are the most trouble can still be helped by a behavior intervention plan. If you need to take it out of your hands, however, try considering professional help. You can create legally-defensible behavior intervention plans in under an hour with Insights to Behavior.
Understanding Behavior is No Easy Task
There you have it — now that you know these truths about behavior, you’re well on your way towards having a far better handle on understanding behavior and why your students act the way that they do.
Although dealing with bad behavior is never fun and often very mentally taxing, remember that it’s going to go a long way towards accomplishing your goal as a teacher: to help raise young children into productive members of society who have a positive impact on their community. Being a part of that journey is something special.
For more education advice, be sure to check out the rest of the articles on the website!