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Lazy and Badly Behaved Students...Two Big Mistakes Teachers Make

Updated on January 30, 2013
in-between the big ocean and a small pond, baby fish grow in the brackish water...
in-between the big ocean and a small pond, baby fish grow in the brackish water...

Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.

--George Soros, author

As the teacher of the high school's partially self-contained special education classroom, the difficult to teach, difficult to motivate, and difficult to manage students all eventually make their way into my corner of the campus. In my room I watch an amazing process which sometimes happens right away and sometimes happens after a year...the student relaxes and eventually, starts working to potential.

if we can only make a difference while they are still young and in school...
if we can only make a difference while they are still young and in school...

“He is lazy,” one teacher said “he is the biggest bump on a log.” Case number one has been standing in the hallway for years, failing class after class. When he went to class, he did absolutely nothing. Finally, he ended up in my room, and I got to work trying to figure him out. What I discovered was that the solution was very simple.

This student needed explicit instructions, one step at a time. He needed an example in front of him. One day he got frustrated, threw all of his books on the floor, shut down, and put his head down, unresponsive. The next day, he explained why. “You were giving me too many directions,” he said. Simple, and very true. Progress was made, and it started because he was able to communicate that to me.

The irony was that, when the instruction went in the way that he needed, his work was perfect. I am talking the exemplar every time, no matter what the subject. His penmanship was painfully accurate, his drawings like a textbook. Not one word was written, however, unless he was absolutely sure of the spelling. He went from getting straight F's to A's and B's.

if we could recognize each individual and help him or her reach full potential...
if we could recognize each individual and help him or her reach full potential...

“He is out of control,” I heard a teacher saying at a meeting, “he needs to be locked up somewhere.” Case number two had a reputation that preceded him...we knew he was coming years before he walked into my class. Of course, the behavior needed to be managed (at least somewhat) first, and after that we got to the academics. The truth? Of course, the bad behavior was a cover for very, very low skills.

This student needed to access high school standards at a second grade reading level. His assignments needed to be modified so that he could build his confidence as he experienced success. Nothing could be taken for granted. A breakthrough happened one day when he asked me how to read a calendar. He had never been taught.

This student had an innate sense of how to survive, even with the odds of a horrendous childhood stacked against him. As he grew academically, this inner drive only intensified, and got channeled in positive directions. He joined sports and kept up his GPA.

when they are carried out of the brackish water, perhaps they will be better prepared...
when they are carried out of the brackish water, perhaps they will be better prepared...

Both students needed instructional scaffolding. Effective learning environments use scaffolding to aid in the construction of new knowledge. The theory is (like in construction) that after the scaffolds are taken down, the building will be left standing.

Both students needed chunking. Chunking is a way of presenting information in small pieces. Chunking utilizes bullets, short sentences, subheadings, bold or italics, and short paragraphs. We all need chunking!

Scaffolding and chunking are just two effective instructional strategies for exceptional needs students. These are just two examples. As teachers, we need to make sure that we are addressing the four quadrants of Danielson's Framework for Teaching for each and every student.

Are we planning and preparing for each student? This includes our knowledge of content, knowledge of student, setting instructional outcomes, designing instruction, using resources, and designing assessments.

How is our classroom environment? Are we creating an environment of respect and rapport, establishing a culture for learning, managing our classroom procedures? Is student behavior being managed? Is our physical space appropriately maximized?

What is the quality of our instruction? Are we communicating with students? Using questioning and discussion techniques? Engaging students in learning, utilizing assessment in instruction, and demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness?

Are we taking care of our professional responsibilities? Reflecting on our teaching? Communicating with the families? Growing and developing professionally? Showing professionalism?

now, whether they end up in the pond or the ocean is out of my hands...
now, whether they end up in the pond or the ocean is out of my hands...

Of course, no one teacher can do all of these things all of the time. My goodness. I look at Danielson's Framework for Teaching and know that I have so much more to do. The important thing is that we as teachers continue to grow and learn. If we dedicate ourselves to this, our mistakes and misperceptions regarding students will decrease. Lazy and badly behaved have turned into meticulous and hard working. In the end that is what it is really all about, isn't it?

Are you familiar with Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching by Charlotte Danielson?

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    • Lauhulu profile image
      Author

      Lauhulu 4 years ago from Hawaii, United States

      Thank you all for your feedback and thoughtful input!

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Scaffolding and chunking - two terms I'd have never thought to use with respect to learning. A very enlightening hub, thank you for sharing. Voted up and interesting.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is amazing what can be done when we discover the learning styles of students and how they work best! Thanks for sharing real life examples and what was done for each student to be successful.

    • Boulism profile image

      Boulism 4 years ago from Short Beach, CT

      Very interesting! I've never really faced major behavior problems in my classroom, but I think this is mostly due to the culture of my school. We give students a lot of independence and freedom (for example, no study halls) and they seem to appreicate it. Just food for thought.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      lauhulu,

      This is an excellently written hub which is very useful for all teachers. In Thailand where I teach now, there are no special education classes, and all kids are streamlined into one class. This makes it very hard when you are teaching classes which have more than 40 students. I have seen my share of lazy and badly behaved students and feel that all of these kids can do better if only the teacher had more time for individualized instruction. Voted up and sharing with followers.

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