A Look at Classroom and School Behavior

A student's classroom behavior can be influenced by a variety of factors. So, let's take a look at some of the most common causes of challenging behaviors. Academic expectations are one of the main reasons for escalating behavior in school. This is why you may hear parents say, "Well, he doesn't act that way at home!"

All behavior has a purpose (root cause). Getting to the root cause of a behavior is the second step in addressing behavior issues. First you must identify the problem (or target) behavior. This can be done by observation, data collection and student interview. The fancy name for this is a Functional Behavioral Assessment, or FBA. Once you identify the target behavior, determine when and where is occurs and what happens before and after (remember Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence from Behavior 101?) you can develop some strategies to address the behavior.

Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Disorder

ADD and ADHD seem to be one of the most common  causes for behavior issues in the classroom. Why? Often it is because our schools are geared to students who are verbal-linguist learners (Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences). Sitting at a desk, trying to be quiet and write a story, well, that is just too much for these students! They want to move around, do some hand's on work, talk to their peers (or anyone who will listen!) Their thoughts and ideas, which are often very creative, are difficult to express because their thinking can be scattered and their behavior tends to be impulsive. Students are asked to be organized, transition from task to task and  maintain appropriate social behavior, these are the skills of Executive Functioning. Adele M. Brodkin, PhD. explains it this way,  "Executive function is what gets us down to business even when we'd rather just hang out."  http://www.scholastic.com/resources/article/explaining-executive-function


Did you ever have a student in your classroom who absolutely took you to the "end of your rope" with off task behavior and fooling around? Then when you brought him/her out into the hallway to express your frustration-they laugh!  It's difficult to see, but you are witnessing is student anxiety in action. Why? As students become older (middle school and up) it is far more important to "save face" with their peers than to have a meaningful discussion with their teachers as to why their anxiety is preventing them from following directions and accomplishing work. Students with anxiety and/or depression are sometimes heard saying, "This is boring!" to an activity that they lack confidence in completing successfully. To these students, it is better to opt out than to try and fail. Anxiety and Depression, (and ADHD)  can also make writing tasks very challenging. This is because working memory skills are required to accomplish writing tasks.  www.parentingscience.com/working-memory.htm  


Bipolar Disorder

Some students identified with Emotional/Behavioral Disturbance or Other Health Impairment (under special education) carry a diagnosis of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder.


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 10 million Americans have bipolar disorder.  Although the illness can occur at any point in life, more than one-half of all cases begin between ages 15-25.


The impact of this illness on a student’s progress varies depending on how their medication is managed and the effectiveness of their support system (family, doctor, school). Students with consistent routines, expectations and medical/emotional support can progress in their academics and participate with peers in social settings, such as clubs, dances and other extra curricular activities.