Friday, September 25, 2009

Stop Picking on Me!!!

There are two students (one boy- “Luke”and one girl- “Melissa”) in my class that are perhaps the most stubborn and rebellious students I have ever worked with. They are frequently engaging in behavior that does not coincide with the expectations in the classroom or school. With the majority of students in my class, when they are being disrespectful or disruptive, I address it and they correct the behavior. With these two students, every situation becomes an argument or a challenge. They never accept responsibility for their actions and have, on numerous occasions accused me of “picking on them”. They defy the warnings that I give them and consciously choose not to replace the poor behaviors in an attempt to challenge my authority (my hypothesis). Once I “make them mad” it is a lost cause for the rest of the day

Melissa and Luke have had a profound impact on the classroom dynamic and my teaching. When they refuse to work, they make it seem like it in our class you can do whatever you want, and when you want to do it. Luckily, the other students haven’t modeled this behavior yet. It isn’t fair to the other students that they have to work, even if they don’t want to, but Melissa and Luke can work when they feel like it. When working in small groups, these two students frequently refuse to cooperate. One two separate occasions I have gotten so fed up with their poor attitudes that I have sent them back to their desks. I was spending so much time getting them back on task that I was neglecting the students who were taking care of business. So, what purpose did that serve? Melissa and Luke just went back to their desks and doodled, distracted others, or whatever else they felt like doing.

They have also made me question whether or not I am targeting them throughout the day. I also feel weary of enforcing consequences for their misbehaving because of the drama that ensues each time I ask them to correct their conduct. I hesitate to say that I am afraid of them because I am not. I guess I just feel like they are going to be defiant no matter what, so why even bother I know this is not the mentality I should have, but I do not know what else to do. . I sometimes feel like I am arguing with my little sibling or cousin, but I still end up “losing” in the end. I talked to my CT about it and she said that in no way am I targeting Melissa and Luke. Oddly enough, she does not encounter the same attitude that I get with these students. As I discussed with the two students myself, if every time I look up you are doing something you should not be done, I cannot be picking on you. You need to correct you behaviors so that I am not always seeing you misbehaving. I also make it a point to praise these students when I see appropriate behavior. I tell them that I love how quietly they walked in the hallway or how patiently they waited for me to come around to assist them. Even with encouraging positive behaviors, I still have not made any headway with decreasing the amount of attitude I get throughout the day on most days.

The disrespect that these students show me almost on a daily basis is not acceptable. As frustrated as I get with them, every interaction I have with them, I am conscious that I am not holding grudge or being mean. Every time we cross paths, I want it to be a new start. Unfortunately, these two students won’t let that happen….at least not yet! For next week, I want to have a one-on-one talk with the students. I would make sure, though, that it did not seem like I was targeting these students. I want to highlight positive behaviors that I know they have shown in the past. During this meeting, I will also talk about negative behaviors I have seen as well. I would present students with behaviors they’ve exhibited and ask them to think about why they may have gotten a number and what they could have done differently. My ultimate goal is for the students to walk away knowing that I am not picking on them, but that they are responsible for their behaviors and must face the consequences of them. Maybe we could right up an agreement that says what the students will agree to and what I will agree to. In this agreement, I would also clarify what will happen if students do not hold their end of the deal. This is just one idea, but whatever I choose, if it does not work out, the next step will be having a nice sit-down or conversation with their guardians because their negative attitudes and behaviors cannot continue.

I could also take this situation and create an opportunity to confer with each student briefly to discuss great things I’ve seen them do and maybe some things they can commit to working on. After these conferences, I would maybe have the class right down some things that they think I could work on and turn them in to me. I want them to know that I am not perfect and even teachers have things we need to work on. The ultimate goal is for students to understand that anyone can improve their behavior or attitude at any time, but only they have the power to do it.


  1. I think you need a specific behavior system for these students. Come up with a motivating prize (and don't think you HAVE to spend money), and give them some kind of sheet where you and they assess the day. I think self-assessment is so valuable, and I think little goals for each week will help the students.

    I know a lot of teachers have had luck with Love and Logic, so you might look into those techniques (in all your free time while student teaching, I'm sure :).

  2. luckeyfrog,

    I'm at ends with what to do with all of this extra time I have!!

    Today, my CT and I started a new behavior incentive called the Star Access Pass. This had been in the works since the beginning of the year, but we are just now able to make it work. The star access pass is a badge that students wear around their neck that reads "Star Access". In order to earn it, students cannot have more than 2 missing homework assignments each week and no more than two numbers (like check marks next to your name when you misbehave. With the pass comes rewards like being at the front of the line, taking extra water and bathroom breaks, running errands for teachers throughout the school, etc. The justification for the benefits is that Star Access students are role models and can be trusted to do those things because they are responsible and respectful 5th graders. Out of 18 students we were only able to award 3 passes for this week. One of those girls is Melissa, the challenging student I mentioned in the "Stop Picking on Me" post. She behaved wonderfully for the entire school day and I sat her down and told her why I was so proud of her.

    Unfortunately, I ended up biting my words later because she was about as rude and defiant as they come during the after-school program. I couldn't believe the alter-ego that showed up out of no where!! I thought this would actually do the trick, but I guess not. I am definitely going to try to incorporate the day to day assessment piece...I will keep you posted on how it goes!! Thanks for all of the advice!