Turning poor student behaviour around may be easier than you think

Turning poor student behaviour around may be easier than you think

Can ‘bad’ behaviour be overturned by the quality of great teacher-student relationships in the classroom?

When faced with the onslaught of student rebellion, especially when on cover duty and not knowing a class, it is all too easy for a teacher to resort to using control, authority and push for dominance. Let’s face it, how many of us as teachers have stood facing a class that is about to kick off, sweat pouring down our armpits and saying inwardly, “OMG, how am I going to hold this together; especially with a group of children who get violent, trash class equipment and hit each other?”

The intensity of the classroom can be high with a few students who are prone to erupting, absconding and deliberately choosing to antagonise another, leaving everyone in constant high anxiety and tension.

In the above scenario, shouting from the teacher inevitably ensues. The classroom, already at boiling point, faces disruption, disharmony and turbulence on a large scale. Using the trump card of authority by following the school behaviour policy a teacher will:

  • hand out classroom sanctions
  • tell children to leave the classroom or send them to the Principal
  • give lunchtime detentions
  • get the child to complete missed work in their own time

In a demanding system, there are many children who react and feel unable to cope; temper outbursts and kicking down tables in the classroom are not uncommon occurrences.

As teachers we find a plethora of ways to try and deal with the ‘problematic child’ inside a system that does not own the fact that the very system itself may be one of the main contributing factors that the child may be in reaction to.

We only know the system we have; an outdated system which was founded on pre-Victorian foundational principles of preparing the population for factory work, the armed forces and as leaders of empire. An entire system founded on creating populations that enhance the economy to obtain financial security and political strength as its primary focus does not in any way shape or form provide space to nurture children, deeply enrich them or confirm them as the unique individuals they are.

Whilst the education system contains many teachers and working professionals who care and care deeply, ultimately the education system itself is loveless and functional at best.

The system denies the young to be seen and connected to as its foremost emphasis, as grades, outcomes and results are the driving factor behind the education consciousness. The better the grades, the better the job, the better salary we will be able to acquire; and on this premise we are offered the idea that we will also secure life fulfilment, settlement and happiness. Is this not a lie?

The priority of the system and its functional outplay come well before the wellbeing of the young, and as such children are moulded to fit in; they are domesticated into movements that bring them away from themselves and the knowing of who they truly are on the inside. Children are confirmed for what they do, not for who they are. We make children fit into the system rather than the system fitting in with the child … all upside down and back to front.

Is it no wonder that in such a structure, many children choose to display errant behaviour as a way of expressing the fact they feel lost and are struggling to navigate a one size fits all set-up that demands conformity?

As teachers we all know the demands of the system are counter to how we would intuitively set up the learning to be, yet we have to deliver and present against what our instincts tell us is true for the students. More than we would like to admit or realise, this is the number one cause of the profession being drained and exhausted (not workload and pressure alone.)

We end up resorting to the very last thing we ever really want to do in the moment of being challenged by difficult and confrontational behaviour in the classroom, and that is shouting and pushing for dominance. We then end up using behaviour policy sanctions as a form of policing, creating further divisions between pupil and teacher.

To overcome this problem we, as teachers, have to understand the root cause of the increasing bad behaviour dilemma and then address it from the grass roots up, with understanding that nothing is wrong – not from the wrongdoing of the child, but from the lack of love and connection of the system which leads to children switching off, checking out, withdrawing, giving up or rebelling.

"Kids need love and real connection well before they need education. With love and connection you will get a willing student and with education void of love and connection you will get at best a compliant student who will develop problems later in life and at worst we will get everything that is not love."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume II, ed 1, p 213

We all crave to be connected to, met, to be recognised, loved and seen for who we are – to honour EVERY child in this way would bring true support into the system. Like a polar shift of the north pole to the south pole and a turning of the globe upside down, a simple but gargantuan shift of emphasis is required:

  • a switch from grades, output and seeking security being the number one priority to well-being and well-ness being the core focus
  • a well-being that is rooted in maintaining a deep settlement and contentment in the body where it is possible to observe others and situations without absorbing and reacting
  • a well-being that is rooted in the understanding where it becomes possible to take responsibility for choices and actions
  • a well-being where it is possible to hold awareness, presence and connection to the physical body without the need for distraction, escaping or daydreaming
  • a well-being where appreciation of others and individual’s qualities and personal attributes are honoured, with no comparison and jealously and that everyone truly matters
  • a well-being that supports the focus of being in service of others whilst honouring self
  • a well-being that supports the interrelationship of family, classmates, teachers and the school community to flourish and deepen.

This shift of emphasis and focus may be the very thing that empowers children to learn and may be the very thing that ironically raises standards of achievement.

Connection, connection, connection needs to be the education mantra – a mantra that is held in the hearts of every educational professional: lived, expressed and formed at the foundation of every educational policy, sanctioned by the government and embedded into school culture.

If we are to change school culture around, where every child can flourish regardless of academic ability, true wellbeing as described above needs to be genuinely and firmly held at the centre of education and the curriculum designed around this core point, where children are supported to make movements to stay deeply connected to themselves and who they are on the inside. Would this not, by natural order and flow, shift and change the culture of ‘bad behaviour in the classroom’?

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  • By Rachel Murtagh, B.Ed (Hons)

    I have made a huge sea change from being anxious, insecure and lacking in confidence to living the exact opposite. I now live with purpose and commitment to life with security of knowing who I am. A few years ago I would never have believed such transformation was possible.

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