Teachers find students with problem behaviors very difficult to manage. Students who are disruptive have a negative effect on the classroom atmosphere, which is one that should be focused on educational pursuits, not on a few students who want to rob others of their education. Although educators want to focus on positive interventions, for example, rewarding positive behaviors and giving praise rather than punishments, sometimes interventions that are both positive and negative are appropriate.

Some students with very negative behaviors do not catch on to a positive behavior plan right away, but these are the students that often crave structure and routine—they need absolute rules in place that have very clear rewards and punishments attached. For example, a rule could be stated in this way (remember to state rules in positive terms):

Complete all assigned class work.

  • Reward: Ten minute computer pass
  • Punishment: E-mail or phone call to parent

Often, students who have behavior problems are focused by working on hands-on projects, such as creating charts or graphs or slide shows. It might be a good idea for teachers to pair students who are more focused with behavior problems or if not enough computers are available, enforce time limits, share computers with other teachers (send four students to two other teachers and return the favor sometime.), or send a few students to the media center. Have a conduct card available—if it can be sent by e-mail to other teachers and then to the parent, that would be ideal—so that the students’ behavior can be monitored, especially when s/he is visiting other classes. Monitoring lets the student know how s/he is doing, so make certain a printable copy is also available for him/her.

Punishments are easy to give out; they include detentions, parent contact, removal from the program and other undesirables that foster the idea that school is a negative place, although sometimes these are interventions that make sense for individual students. Rewards increase self esteem, but many teachers find themselves unable to provide rewards that they feel are appropriate or sanctioned by the school. For example, giving students candy is frowned upon, and costly as well. Some rewards may include: free computer time, positive phone calls or e-mails home (although sometimes parents think this is a prank or an intrusion!), time to listen to music with headphones, time to play with a handheld video game. Avoid using free homework passes—this gives the idea that homework is a punishment, something to try to keep away from!

Try to develop a positive behavior plan and see if it is successful. Clues will include: a more relaxed, happier classroom atmosphere and fewer teacher headaches and gray hairs!