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Reframing How we See Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom

Hey Teach, I know disruptive behavior in the classroom can be super challenging. We can get frustrated and start to feel defeated with a lack of resources and lack of support. I’d like to offer a bit of encouragement. Hopefully, this can provide a light at the end of the tunnel for you. I found this short video where Polly Bath provides another way of looking at behaviors.

If we can start looking at disruptive behavior as a skill deficit, and correctly identify that skill, we might gain a better strategy for managing that behavior. I really appreciate how honest Polly was in identifying that this is a skill we as educators must learn by practicing and that it doesn’t come naturally.

This was a concept I first learned when becoming a foster parent. On the surface, the “bad behavior” can seem like rebellious, angry, spoiled, or any number of adjectives to describe the child. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see there is a reason for the behavior and the behavior is a form of communication, it’s just miscommunication.

I had to keep repeating to myself “misbehavior is miscommunication.” My mission then had to become twofold, identify what the child is actually trying to communicate and deal with that in a healthy way, and also teach the child how to communicate more effectively in the future.

I once had a 16-year-old foster daughter who was constantly getting in trouble at school for wearing a hat or having her hood up. After some delicate questioning, I discovered no one had ever taught her how to care for her hair and she was embarrassed so she tried to keep it covered as much as possible.

My job was to identify the real issue and address it then teach her how to communicate needs in the future. First, I took her to a hair salon where they pampered her while teaching her how to care for her specific hair type. Then, by building trust in our relationship, I was able to help her learn to communicate needs, not just suffer in silence.

It is hard work teachers! But it is so worth it. Some of my best teacher-student relationships, the kind you’ll remember you’re whole life, were with my most problematic students. You’ve got this Teach! And remember, spring break is just around the corner.

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What do you think?

Dorothea Lange

Pi Day