avatar.jpgWhy do students Misbehave?

A student misbehaving in class comes down to four main reasons:
  1. Attention
  2. Power
  3. Revenge
  4. Avoidance of Failure
For new teachers, these are all areas look for and ensure you don’t get trapped in these scenarios. Understand what to look for to stop students from misbehaving before it occurs
- Some signs:
  • Pencil Tapping
  • Humming / Singing
  • Constant Talking
  • Blurting out/ Interrupting
- Some students want to be the center of attention. These types of students will do anything to get the class to look at them. This could be something as being argumentative with the teacher or with another student to something that they do in class because it is funny.
- Most times these students are seen as annoying and rude, which the teacher has to discipline them for, creating an even bigger scene. This is what the student wants.
- This is a common problem that some teachers don’t know how to handle. This is an example of a teacher that has dealt with a student that is looking for attention.
- It doesn’t have to be disruptive, so give the student praise for doing good things in the classroom. Here is a document that outlines protocols to obtain this.
- Some Signs:
  • These students make you questions your own authority
  • They must always have the last work
  • They’ll mutter something unintelligible to get you take the bait and respond
  • Even when they do follow your directions, they are likely to do so with a sullen expression and in a slow manner
  • They are likely to say, “You can’t make me do it!”
- Students want to be in charge or in control of the classroom. The students feel that they want their own way, and it should happen because that’s how it works at home.
- Power students won’t try to act out until they know they have an audience, so make sure any interventions with these students happens without others being around. Here is a video that students posted of them acting out in class trying to dominate the class and do what they want.
- These students will also try to get the teacher to get loud and yell in the classroom causing more damage. This is a video response that was posted as a response to a teacher looking for help.
- Some Signs:
  • These students have been the recipients of frequent punishment in the past
  • They may be the victims of traumatic family or school experiences
  • This is often demonstrated in verbal abuse
- Some students will bring real or imagined hurt feelings into the classroom that will predicate them misbehaving in class. These out lashes could be physical, but more predominantly psychological. They will come in verbal abuse towards another student or teacher.
- Bullies also fall into this category. They may be responding to a specific action or just an overall attitude to pick on other students.
- Your classroom isn’t the worst either. Here is a quick video of how a student can get out of control and take over the class.
Avoidance of Failure
- Some Signs:
  • Students sleep, refuse to answer questions, don’t turn in assignments, and may be called apathetic and ignored because they don’t interrupt the class.
  • Students who have withdrawn from the system may have resorted to this form of misbehavior as a way of avoiding further failure.
  • It’s easier on the self-concept to not do an assignment rather than try it and fail, risking further feelings of low self-worth and incompetence.
- Some students hit a wall that they feel they cannot be successful in school, so they decided to absolutely nothing in class so they won’t turn in something for a failing grade.
- These are the hardest students to see misbehaving, but they can be detrimental to your classroom. If this behavior isn’t addressed, then other students will start following this behavior trend leading to an unproductive classroom.
What do teachers do to cause students to misbehave?

Talking over Students
- Teachers that try to talk over their students cause more issues then help the issue of students talking out of turn. This causes students to be inattentive, side-talking, and poor listening by the students not talking.
- Teachers should wait for the students to stop talking before continuing their lessons.

Rushing Around
- Teachers that move to quickly and frantically in the classroom will cause restlessness, excitability, and poor behavior among the students.
- The easiest fixed for this are being more prepared in lesson plans and transitions, plus slowing the lesson down all together.

Answering call-outs
- Answering student that do not raise their hands will encourage disrespect among the students. This also iterates that your classroom management plan is no longer valid.
- You have to ensure that you only answers and respond to students who raise their hand before answering.

Moving on
- Moving on to material when students are not paying attention emphasizes that inattentiveness is okay in your class and less than their best will be tolerated in your class.
- Ensure that everyone in the class is paying attention and emphasize everyday how only the students best will be accepted.

Negative Thinking
- The student will read not only what you say, but how you say it. A teacher’s body language, tone of voice, and sarcasm will lead to the students’ resentment, misbehavior, and revenge towards the teacher.
- Always be a positive teacher and exemplify the best qualities in your students.

- Students will react negatively and disruptively if you show frustration, take behavior personally, and react emotionally to students.
- It is your job as the teacher to stay cool and stick to your classroom management plan.

- Having clutter in the classroom shows the lake of pride on the teachers behalf, which leads to unwanted behaviors.
- Having a neat classroom will show the students you value hard work, neatness, and character.

- Understand the students’ opinion of your class doesn’t outline the effectiveness of your classroom. A teacher’s classroom is their own creation, and will be as effective as the teacher deems.

When students do misbehave, What should I do?

Negative Responses come from:
- Reacting emotionally by being angry or making hollow threats
- Handing out a punished that is out of proportion to the offense
- Reacting to misbehavior publicly
- Reacting to a small incidence that often resolves itself
- Making an accusation without the facts to back it up

Positive Responses come from:
- Describing the unacceptable behavior to the student
- Pointing out how his behavior negatively impacts him and others
- Talking with the students about what could have been better behavior choice and why
- Asking the student to write a goal that will help him improve his actions
- Showing confidence in the student that his behavior goals are achievable
- Positively reinforcing behavior that relates to student goals
Other Articles
Why do children misbehave?
Why do children misbehave 2?

Cummings, C. (1996). Managing to teacher. New York, NY: Teaching Inc.

Dreikur, R. (2003). Reasons for student misbehavior require thoughtful responses. The Advantage Press, (6),

Linsin, M. (2010). 8 things teachers do to encourage misbehavior. Smart Classroom Management,

Rosellen. (2009, April 18). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://nyteachers.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/students-misbehavior-and-how-it-can-be-improved-by-flavia-marietto-and-meghan-woodstock/