When Students Misbehave: Our Approach With Students

Students make choices every day in their interactions with others in the class, in the halls, and outside. Sometimes those choices interfere with what others need. It could be an inappropriate choice of words, or inappropriate physical contact. Such behaviors are typically referred to as misbehaviors.

The word misbehavior itself is interesting. For many, the word has a negative connotation, and needs to be addressed with consequences or with a tone that is often one of anger, frustration, or displeasure.

We view misbehavior differently. We see our school as a place of learning, and that learning, especially when it comes to learning about how to be with others often occurs when it is not part of a classroom lesson. That’s why we consider student misbehavior more as a learning opportunity, rather than as something we have to deal with.

For instance, if a student is pushes another student in line because that person budded in, one can see that the motivation or purpose of the behavior was acceptable (standing up for oneself). However, there are many ways to stand up for oneself without hurting the other person. The pushing, therefore, was a poor or mistaken choice to achieve a valid goal, and that behavior becomes a valuable, authentic learning opportunity. That means we use a helping tone help the student understand and validate his or her motivation, to help the student understand why the choice was a poor one, and to ensure the student understands that there are alternate ways to stand up for oneself. Then, we help the student learn to fix that mistake, and, depending on the circumstance, may apply a consequence.

But, there is still the other student to consider. What motivated that other student to bud in line? Was is done without any thought (just entered the line), or was it done because he/she wanted to be close to the front, or near some friends? Again, wanting to be at the front of the line or near one’s friends are valid motivators, but the behavior of budding in is a poor or mistaken choice to achieve that goal. Therefore, we help that student explore and choose other more appropriate options with the expectation that those options are exercised next time.

This approach is far more time consuming than simply reprimanding or applying consequences to the offending student. However, if we want students to understand that their behaviours are choices, that their choices affect others, and that there are ways to get what we need without hurting others, we need to pause and work closely with our students.

Our approach follows the work of Dianne Gossen (Restitution Self Discipline) which is based on William Glasser’s Choice Theory. Our Student Code of Conduct follows this approach.