Why do students act out?

We all have that one student or many students who become major distractions in the classroom. So what do teachers do? We know exactly what they do, they react to the situation. That reaction can be extremely tough for even the best of teachers. We come up with heavy-duty consequences, but some students still continue to break the rules. So then, what is a teacher to do? Teachers have limited time with the student, so that can be the biggest factor in how it is dealt with. Teachers have more than one student, there is another factor in how it is dealt with. Those two factors alone limit the teacher on how they can get to the root of the student misbehavior. But, getting to the root of the problem could make all the difference.

So, why do students act out?

  • They are having problems at home.
  • When they don’t understand the lesson, they choose to push away feeling inadequate. They’d much rather see themselves as behavior problems than slow learners.
  • They feel frustrated because they don’t get it, and rather than treat frustration as a doorway into learning, they push it away, and end up acting out.
  • It’s possible that the lesson is inappropriate for them, and they act out as a communication to the teacher to change the lesson or the approach.
  • The teacher has been reacting at them rather than responding with them.
  • They are using drugs. Although drug use is often viewed as a symptom of underlying problems, once done with regularity, drugs can become the problem.
  • They are having trouble with medication-not taking it, taking it too much, or not taking it regularly.
  • They have emotional tension with peers.
  • They are being bullied and/or intimidated by classmates.
  • They are struggling in other classes.
  • A myriad of other reasons, both in and out of the classroom.

Teachers continue to be the driving force behind a child to change these behaviors. We want the student to succeed and allow others to succeed. Remember, students don’t act out because they are bad people. They are simply looking for ways to establish and maintain a sense of self while navigating through the sometimes extreme experiences they have. We all know when a student acts out, it is often a call for help.

We work hard to try and get that student to change. We ask why. There are times we can’t figure out why. Change is not easy for kids or adults. There are some approaches that can make a difference.

  1. Want to change
  2. Know how to change
  3. Have opportunities to practice changing
  4. Be conscious of their choices as they are choosing them
  5. Receive ongoing support from the teacher

Assuming the best for the student who is constantly beating the teacher down can disrupt and distract a teacher from doing what they do. You may be the only positive person who can continue to try and keep the student on a path that can help them be successful. Hold it together, and work your magic.

Could you imagine a doctors office with 25 patients sitting in the waiting room, all needing the doctor’s attention at the same time, having 5 of them being disrespectful and disruptive, being dealt with the same way, with the same care, and not being able to be removed from the office until treated?

Teachers do this on a daily basis and are not permitted to have a bad day. Keep on teaching, you are great.


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