Why Behavior Has Gotten Worse And What To Do About It

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According to a National Center for Education Statistics survey, 56 percent of school leaders believe the pandemic has led to an increase of student misbehavior.

And they’re not even in the classroom. Ask teachers the same question and that percentage is likely to go way up.

Why is this happening?

Well, I don’t believe that the pandemic itself has caused increased misbehavior. Yes, students fell behind academically and often socially. They were more immature and less engaged.

All true. But the the increase in misbehavior has only continued to grow despite returning to in-person learning almost two years ago.

There is no doubt that disrespect, aggression, fighting, cursing, bullying, vaping, and extreme misbehaviors are all up and work habits and interest in learning are down.

The cause, however, falls right in the laps of those same school leaders.

In an effort to be “understanding,” they lowered standards. They loosened dress codes, ignored discipline policies, capitulated on phone use, allowed abhorrent language in the hallways, and removed consequences.

Which, of course, trickled down to the classrooms. Dangerous behavior, in particular, is being swept under the rug.

Thus, if a teacher gets threatened or a student gets assaulted, and the teacher reports the offense—which they must do—the perpetrator is right back in the classroom hours later.

Other than a gentle talking-to and questions about what might be bothering them, there is no consequence.

Teachers, in turn, in order to survive, feel as if they must lower their own standards. They must allow ear buds, the N-word, talking in class, disrespect, and sexualized, gang-related dress and behavior or else it would be total chaos.

So, what to do about it?

There are two courses of action.

First, you must gather as a staff and speak up. You must decide as teachers that enough is enough and you’re going to have each other’s backs. You’re going to create—or recreate—a school-wide discipline plan and present it to your administrator.

This should include:

Precise rules for every classroom.

In-class consequences.

Hallway, recess, and lunchtime rules and consequences.

Strict policies on phone use and dress code.

Exactly when, how, and under what conditions a student is referred to administration.

Exactly what consequences will be given by administration.

This last one is a sticking point for many principals. They have been told from on high that they must limit, or completely eliminate, suspensions. (As an aside, school districts then tout this ridiculously as proof that behavior is getting better.)

Therefore, if this is the case, then you must come up with alternatives. Some examples:

Pick up trash after school or at lunch.

Silent, days-long, in-school suspension.

Daily behavior groups—not to talk about feelings, but to learn, practice, and be tested on the school’s discipline plan.

Work as cafeteria aides and safety officers.

Loss of privileges, which can include sports teams and school clubs.

Finally, the threat of expulsion.

On this last point, every school district has a policy on expulsion. Find out what it is and include it as part of your plan.

The whole plan, of course, must be taught at school assemblies and as part of every classroom. It must be modeled explicitly and adhered to strictly and consistently. This, and this alone, will save your school.

It will bring back purpose and responsibly and allow you to begin making progress academically.

Second, if you’re left to your own devices, if your school is a lost cause and your efforts to rally your colleagues fails, you yourself must bring discipline and purpose to your own classroom.

Yes, it’s possible.

You don’t have to be special or gifted with the right personality. You don’t have to look a certain way or be willing to put in long hours. You just need two things:

Expert classroom management.

Mental toughness.

Classroom management is knowledge-based. It’s a skill you can learn. Mental toughness simply refers to the dedication it takes to learn and the commitment to following it.

In both cases, we’ve got you covered. Everything you need is right here on this website. SCM has simple, effective classroom management figured out. There are nearly 700 articles covering every classroom management topic and challenge imaginable.

It’s all free. Nothing is held back. You can use the Search bar at the top of the page. The archive can be found along the bottom right sidebar.

We also have books and e-guides available (at right) if you want a systematic approach right at your fingertips.

Bottom line is that what has happened since the pandemic is wrong, every which way. It’s tragic. We’re losing kids and great teachers and it’s only going to get worse unless we do something about it.

I encourage you to share this article with your colleagues, your school, and anyone else who has an interest in saving education, public or otherwise.

PS – We welcome your comments. However, those that are mean-spirited or misrepresent the article will not be approved.

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