Negative attitudes and behaviors by the students in the classroom are a matter of paramount importance and with serious consideration to teachers and principals not only because misbehavior has an effect on teaching in the classroom and the learning process. Behavioral problems in schools vary widely and exhibited by different age groups of students. This can be in the form of small breaches of discipline – such as sometimes talking when the teaching is in class and expects the student’s concentration or not carrying out assignments and work given. Other case considered extreme can include disturbing the class or defying school rules and regulations, and even criminal offences within the school. From an interview, I conducted on a general teacher I was able to identify facts. She mentioned that in her class, she has interacted with a student who is not serious in following the seating arrangements put in place. He usually pulls his desk back and moves behind the class far from the rest of the other students. Though not always noisy, it disrupts the other students who lose concentration and begin to look at this weird habit, so it causes a disruption (W.B, 2011). The more, severe disciplinary problems, which probably do not occur frequently in that school, are directed to a group of teachers or even the school counselor. However, the less serious sorts of misbehavior, which occur sometimes within the classroom, should be dealt with urgently by the teacher, specifically the class teacher. Finding a solution to the negative behavior and attitude would help to improve the whole classroom’s environment. In the end if results are yielded, then it would undoubtedly increase the students' performance in school and to raise achievement levels is a vision to the school’s improvement plan (Trosclair et al., 2008).
Challenging behavior is a way to categorize the behavior as challenging, instead of considering the person with the behavior as the problem. This means that the person should not be labeled based on their behavior (Bowen, 2005). What is challenging behavior? It can be exceedingly difficult and occurs for a wide variety of reasons. Challenging behavior can be described as; “behaviors of such distribution or duration that the behavior which severely limits the individual’s access to standard settings, activities and experiences” (Bowen, 2005). Student’s behavior can be described as aggressive, self-injurious, anti-social and withdrawn behavior; students can also indicate distracting or disruptive behavior. The behavior may progress quickly from logically sequenced steps to impulsive actions. Challenging behavior can be inappropriate behaviors, which are behaviors that do not conform to acceptable social behavior.
Challenging behavior can be where there is a need for interventions, policies or a change in teaching practices or strategies due to behaviors occurring or re-occurring in the classroom. It is a complex system to handle them appropriately and ensure that the negative attitudes and behaviors are not repeated again. In addition, teachers need to know how behavior develops as all behavior is learned, behavior will be determined as it will be employed to reply to current scenarios (Martin, 1999). The goals of understanding discipline are to teach children restraint, do away with the burden of external control, to reduce punishment and focus on informing the children about how to do what is expected of them, and reduce wastage of time and reduce stress. Discipline is further enhanced by partnerships between teachers and parents and helps build rapport. For example, during my interview with the general teacher at the elementary school, I was able to comprehend what strategies they used when faced with the problem of a student with aggressive behavior (Leblanc, 2000). They have a quiet area that they use as a retreat. This is a secluded place where the individual who has exhibited the aggressive behavior stays in order for them to be by their own and thus comprehend the consequences of what they have done or the manner of their behavior. In the bigger picture, it gives the individual a rough idea that what they have done is not something encouraged and is not accepted. They are also given strategies on their desk as reminders, for example, counting to ten. Another key strategy is awarding those that do not exhibit negative attitudes and behaviors, so it provides and fair reason why a person should act in the wrong manner. It can be argued that this is a worthwhile effort that has positive results when it comes to providing a solution to the problem. The rewards are based on things that are easily accessible by the teachers and are not expensive but are of paramount importance to the students. This can include provision of playing materials, which serve as an award. There is also the perceptual control theory questioning whereby the student exhibiting negative attitudes and behaviors will be questioned about the consequences that their actions have. The questions are asked in a way to convince the students that they are engaged into something not considered to be correct and should change their actions (Martin, 1999). Thus, the student will become more accountable for his actions and feelings. For instance, questions like, is what are doing helping to get what you want? More time should be spent on praising the student for having positive classroom behaviors and attitudes, and less time should be spent on correcting their mistakes thus it encourages them. It is better to give an appreciable quantity of positive reinforcement, rather than negative reinforcement since the way that the reinforcements of such responses will, in turn, influence the students in either a beneficial way or an unpleasant way. This type of reinforcement will influence the child’s self-worth and his effort. They would either be encouraged or be discouraged by this (Kobus et al., 2008).
Negative Attitudes and Behaviors in the classroom have various causes. These causes have to be considered in order to find with a way to combat the issue effectively. Home, peer group and social factors affect behavior in the classroom; these factors have negative aspects that influence student behaviors. Negative aspects of home environments can be; poverty, child abuse, lack of family support and domestic violence. Managing a class means providing the conditions in which every student in the class will be actively involved in appropriate learning practices (Trosclair et al., 2008). This may be what the teacher has come to a conclusion that they should be taught about it or what the students have chosen that they want to learn, or ideally, both of these at the equally. Therefore, a well-managed class in which all students are engaged in teaching and academic activities are taking place effectively is often. To handle negative attitudes and behaviors, the aspects surrounding the students need to be looked at so that the teacher can find the best solution. For instance, if it is peer influence that leads to the problem then the student should be encouraged to be influenced negatively by their peers (Martin, 1999).
Rather than always being negative, the outcome of friend’s influence is variable. One researcher in England spent years observing adolescents interactions with their classmates at school (Khalsa, 2005). He observed that in the classrooms in which friends had a negative influence on one another’s behavior, they encouraged each other to disrupt the class and also not to study for tests. They try to influence each other to exhibit negative behaviors in the classroom. They also reinforced each other’s negative attitudes towards school. The outcomes were vise-versa in classrooms where friends had a positive influence on each other. They discouraged negative behavior that interfered with the class and the teacher’s work (Trosclair et al., 2008). Furthermore, they encouraged academic achievement and gave social approval to each other whenever they attained exemplary or high grades. Thus, the teacher should find a way to discourage the negative peer influence since with positive influence, exceptional academic achievement will be assured (Martin, 1999).
Negative behavior and attitude cycles tend to reinforce themselves. Thus, when a student misbehaves, quick and immediate actions using correct disciplinary methods should be applied to break the cycle. Unfortunately, the choice about what is to be done is not always apparent. Studies show that children with learning disabilities tend to attribute their failure to succeed both socially and academically to reasons beyond their control and thus feel this failure cannot be changed. This only leads to reinforcement of negative behavior as well as lowering the self-esteem. Thus, they should also be taught social skills that act a way to improve their self-esteem. They should be taught the traits needed to build their character and also what will be expected of them in the larger society. These can include such things as respect, responsibility, fairness and being trustworthy among others.
A way to handle this is by individualizing behavioral interventions, especially for students exhibiting repetitive and chronic misbehaviors. The teacher should not be overly involved with the student’s actions and lose their professional objectivity and empathy. The teacher should also set goals, which make it easier to encourage acceptable behavior (Weinstein, 2006). The student would, therefore, try to act appropriately in order to reach a certain achievable goal thus; it makes it easier to handle the problem. They should treat each negative behavior unique and not to generalize how the issue is solved. This way the students will realize that indeed their actions have the urgency to be changed. If the teacher considers each individual and talks with him or her about his or her actions then it becomes simpler to find a solution.
The teacher should also try to apply behavioral rating scales. It can be argued that this method would enable the teacher to find it easier to handle the problems with behavior and attitudes since they would have had prior knowledge about how the student behaves. This is because the records act like a predictor of future character of the individual. It reflects how the student behaves, and after certain duration, a definite description of the individuals’ behavior can be analyzed. In the end, they can have ratings that actually help to solve the behavioral issues, and it makes it easier to know how the students are progressing. It also provides a method to know if a student has gone against the norm by defining what is right and what is wrong based on behavior (Pate et al., 2009).
The teacher should also have a close relationship with the students. Studies of students’ report of their teacher’s disciplinary behavior and attitudes towards their students have given conclusive evidence of how this affects the students. Students tend to become less interested to subjects taught by teachers who they consider angry and also display anger, as well as those who punish innocent students and do not provide warning before issuing punishments (James, & Cooper, 2010). This may occur besides the fact that the importance attached to the subject will not be affected. Students who perceived their teachers as admonishing and strict were those with more negative attitudes toward the subject being taught in the classroom (Trosclair et al., 2008). The difficulty with correlation is attributing causation. Although, as before, it is tempting to assume that teacher’s unreasonable behavior causes negative students attitudes, the opposite is equally possible. Less interested students are more readily distracted and potentially distracting. Teachers dealing with such student behavior are more likely to act unreasonably; thus behavior could involve both relationships. This means that so as to curb the issue, both the teacher and student should find a way to relate.
For instance, the teacher I interviewed told me of one of their efforts to encourage positive attitudes with children in their classrooms. This is inclusive of strategies to develop positive relationships. This is through community building activities in the first several weeks of school. The guidance counselor will also be put into the picture. They deal with giving guiding lessons on friendship. Such things are inclusive of using kind words and encouraging others and teaching the importance of the need to exhibit random acts of kindness. Furthermore, this shows the need to have guidance counselors in institutions that also help teachers to handle the problems. Thus, when the teacher finds negative attitudes and behaviors hard to handle then they can use the help of councilors who are professionals when it comes to handle such issues. In the end, it becomes easier since various people are in dealing with the negative behavior and issues (Trosclair et al., 2008).
The students’ attitudes could also be handled by use of a longitudinal study measuring the attitudes of a sample of students. For instance, the attitudes of actual dropouts can then be compared to students who have not dropped out or even have acts of truancy. In addition, the development of attitudes of students in class will also be looked at. Thus, this further suggests the assumption that a relationship does exist between attitudes and behavior. Persons most often choose to behave in congruence with their held attitudes. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that their attitudes determine their behaviors. For example, students’ negative attitudes might affect their tendency to drop out of school (Lowy, 1991).
In conclusion, teachers should consider the development of the students’ attitudes regarding the classroom environment. They cannot take the role of parents in this process, or the wider socialization process. However, they have the unique position of affecting attitude development significantly. The teachers should use all means necessary to handle negative attitudes and behaviors, and this can only be done if the problem in the students is recognized early and measures taken to curb or stop it (Paul, 2000).
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