The following was written by Carina Hilbert @CarinaHilbert on Twitter on August 12, 2018. She writes from a classroom perspective. I believe anyone can use the wisdom of her thoughts and I challenge myself and anyone else who reads them, to do so. Swap “students” or “kids” with “people”. Swap “classroom” for “workspace” or “home”.
“I have been seeing a lot of posts in my TL lately saying that negative behavior in the classroom is always a sign of learning struggle or that the student needs more support. While I agree that’s true a lot of the time, it isn’t true all the time.
Some students act out due to boredom. They don’t need more support, and they aren’t struggling: they’re bored. Just ask them, and they’ll tell you. These tend to be active learners, kids with engineer minds, kids who see the big picture quickly. Give them more to do.
Some kids act out because they know they’re safe with us to do so. It’s like how kids are worst at home because they’re safe to act that way and still be loved. That can happen in the classroom, too. It takes solid conversation with that kid to find out why it’s happening.
Some kids act out in class due to power dynamics. They want power, feel like the teacher has all the power, and so they undermine the teacher in order to get the level of power they need to feel safe and comfortable. (Here’s a secret: give them power. It’s okay.)
Some kids act out in class because they are overwhelmed with something going on in their private lives. They’re struggling with a move, with grief, with depression, with anxiety, with a million things, and they need a safe space to process that. Give them that space.
Some kids act out because they hate the book, the material, the curriculum, the subject. It isn’t that they don’t get it; it’s that they really don’t like it. Listen to them. You might be surprised at the insights they have.
Some students act out because something physical is going on. They have to go to the bathroom every day at that time, but you don’t allow enough bathroom passes. They have chronic pain and the short fuse that comes with it. They’re hungry. Respect those bodily needs.
Some kids act out due to mental health issues that aren’t being treated right. In schools, we get all kids, including sociopathic ones. Work on those relationships, and be ready with many different strategies and backup plans. Work with your admins, too, on safe spaces.
Some kids act out because they pick up on our exhaustion, our racism, our biases, our disrespect. Kids read us every second of every day, and if we, deep down, don’t like a kid, trust me, that kid knows. We have to eliminate those biases as best we can can every day.
In all reality, there are as many reasons kids act out in class as there are kids. Get to know your students, work on those relationships, and also work hard to make sure at least your classroom is safe for all learners. A safe space in the building for cooling down helps, too.
Too many schools don’t have a safe space for kids to cool down, talk through what happened, and rebuild any relationships they damaged with their behavior. We are too quick to punish without understanding. Work within your school to fix this, and you’ll see a huge change.”
Young or old: we’re a complicated product of the days we’ve lived and the realities we’ve faced, coupled with the innate skills and interests we have on the inside. We all need the things Carina describes here to be our best: safety, security, a sense of belonging, mental health, physical health and a belief that life’s challenges can be met and are worth risking ourselves for.
These concepts that Carina has outlined are at the root of my current book-in-progress, Dear Warriors. Dear Warriors is a book to support and inspire those with type 1 diabetes. However, as I wrote it, I saw universal truths that apply to everyone. We’re all Warriors. And what do honorable Warriors do? They help each other out. They give each other space, but never abandon each other. They use their individual talents together to get the job done. That’s what Carina is suggesting, too.
Know each other. Give to the other what you have and they need. Take from the other what they can offer you. Stick together. Work together. That will lead to positive change for everyone.