Poor student behavior involves many factors

Elijah Carerra Co-Editor in Chief

Every school has a few students that are perceived as lazy, or disrespectful. Sometimes various factors can play into the perceptions of these students, which can include factors not in their control, like ethnicity, economic status, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Statistics have long shown behavioral issues have a significant link with ACEs. However, more recent studies have found it goes far beyond that. In a piece published by The Frontier, it was found that families with a lower socioeconomic status experienced more intense psychological and economic stress than those with a higher socioeconomic status. 

This excess stress takes away a parent’s time devoted to educating their children, which in turn makes the child more likely to experience psychological and behavioral issues.

“That can have an effect. Is the student home by themself a lot? What kind of support is at home, what kind of support systems? Single-parent family, or double-parent family? All those things play into effect I think on behavior in schools,” Dean Charles Wright said.

The largest behavioral issue at Bellevue East is with attendance. According to last year’s Nebraska Department of Education annual statistics, almost a fourth of the student population at East (344) missed over 18 days of school. 

However, about half of the students missed less than 12 days of last school year. However, for those students who demonstrate poor behavior at school, such behavior can impact the learning environment for everyone. 

“Poor student behavior is typically caused by choices. You are making a choice to do things maybe you are not supposed to do, like follow rules. For example, we have a policy with no hats. You know, people are going to make the choice to follow it or not. That’s kind of life,” Wright said.

While choice is a factor in behavior, those choices can be impacted by what people are exposed to, and how they are exposed to it, which heavily correlates with where they grew up. For example, an article published by all4kids, titled ‘Children in Poverty – Poverty and its Effects on Children,’ explains how children living in impoverished neighborhoods are much more likely to experience malnutrition, pollution, food insecurity, housing instability, economic hardship, led exposure, violence, and crime. All of which can contribute to behavioral issues, and declining mental health.

“Uninformed teachers may think that poor children slouch, slump, and show little effort because they are—or their parents are—lazy. Yet research suggests that parents from poor families work as much as parents of middle- or upper-class families do. There’s no ‘inherited laziness’ passed down from parents,” Human Development Specialist Eric Jensen said.

While poverty can impact student behavior, other problematic interactions might stem from the social environment, including negative experiences with fellow students.  

“Obviously, poor behavior can also stem from disagreements with individuals. Arguments, fights. You know, those types of deals. My opinion honestly, poor behavior is going to stem from just decisions. Decisions that individuals choose to make,” Wright said.

WGU Education published an article providing effective ways school employees can handle student behavior. First, find the root cause of the disruptive behavior. This will be proactive in meeting the student’s needs while not reinforcing the poor behavior.  Next, reach out to a colleague for support. A lot of schools have specialists who are more equipped to deal with extreme behavior. Pam Schieffer is one of these educators. Schieffer has lots of experience with emotional behavioral disabilities (EBD).

“My best advice is to provide clear, simple, and firm expectations for the students,” Schieffer said. “They will push and try to cross the line. Don’t back down, and don’t show them it upsets you. Also, if they are trying to suck you in, ignore it and walk away when possible.”

Third, remember to remain calm. The Crisis Prevention Institute notes that one of the most important things a teacher needs is to remain calm. Have a plan and stick to it. Students will test boundaries. Teachers must have a consistent set of rules, and reward/consequence systems. Fourth, involve administration. Safety should be a teacher’s primary concern when extreme behavior does occur. Document, Document, Document. This is important for two reasons: it establishes that there is a problem, and it has become a pattern, and it will become absolutely essential to have documentation if administration is involved. The deans also support teachers in the classroom. 

“Being proactive as much as we can. Doing everything to make sure schools, our students know the policies and procedures. Being active, being in the hallways. Talking with kids, building relationships, so they understand. They don’t have to like the rules, but they can understand why in order to have a safe and effective school,” Wright said.

Effective consequences to be used by teachers are also mentioned in the same article, such as positive attention for positive behaviors, ignoring actively, being consistent, setting rules and following them, and returning to the task.