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Teachers face several challenges while teaching young children. One of the major challenges teachers need to adjust to while teaching in the early years of schooling is to be able to effectively manage the behaviour of students in a classroom setting. Teachers need to have realistic expectations of the appropriate behaviours that students can display in the classroom to ensure that effective and conducive learning takes place. Teachers spend most of their time in classrooms with students. Thus, it is important that they are able to successfully ascertain behaviour management strategies that will ensure classroom environments that are nurturing and marked with high levels of achievement. (Charles, C, 1996, pg 205) Therefore, it can be seen that behaviour management is an extremely imperative aspect in both the life of the teachers and students.
Behaviour management refers to the actions and strategies of teachers to prevent and respond to inappropriate behaviour of students as well as to enhance self discipline among students. (Walker, J.E. and Shea, T.M, 1999 pg7) Inappropriate behaviour in classrooms may refer to students 'fighting, swearing, disrupting class activities for no reason, displaying loud and disorderly conduct and inept or misuse of equipment.' (Walker, J.E. and Shea, T.M, 1999 pg 10) This kind of negative behaviour can cause distress, chaos and disruptions in learning especially for those who are keen to enjoy the learning. (Walker, J.E. and Shea, T.M, 1999 pg 10) Hence, it is fundamental that teachers develop an appropriate framework to manage the student's behaviour. This is as the way in which behaviour is managed by teachers has a major influence on how the students will behave in the future.
According to research, being able to successfully manage the behaviour of students in the early years ensures good academic learning to occur as there is a relationship between intellectual outcomes and behaviour. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 108) There are three reasons for this. The first is that a student who is responsible would adhere to certain student requirements such as paying attention and completing work on time. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 108) These are qualities fundamental to great academic achievement. Secondly, students who behave well will develop positive interactions with teachers and their peers. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 108) Having a good relationship with the teacher will enhance a student's learning process as teachers seem to give less attention to students who misbehave.( McInerney, D, 1998 pg 108) Furthermore, a strong rapport among peers, especially peers who value education augments students' motivation to achieve. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 108) Thirdly, students who are motivated to behave in an appropriate and socially responsible manner will be motivated to engage well in their academic work. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 109)
Instilling discipline and good learning skills in students is also essential. These lifelong skills which when imbibed at an early age will help the students to become good citizens in the future who will be disciplined in their working and adult life. Furthermore, having effective behaviour management strategies in place will result in a classroom environment that is conducive to learning and development as well as result in students understanding and developing appropriate behaviour.
Hence, teachers need to be aware of a range of strategies and skills for responding to students' inappropriate behaviour and managing their behaviour in the classroom. Firstly, teachers need to realise the cause of misbehaviour among the students in the classroom. There may be a few reasons as to why misbehaviour may occur. Misbehaviour and discipline problems tend to occur when students are not engaged in activities that are absorbing or interesting.( McInerney, D, 1998 pg 112) Students may also find tasks given to them either too hard or too easy hence not allowing them to achieve success. All this may lead to attention seeking through disruptive behaviour. Aside from poor quality teaching, students may have social and emotional problems such as inconsistent parenting, poverty, emotional or physical abuse, poor self esteem which could also lead to misbehaviour in classroom. . (Walker, J.E. and Shea, T.M, 1999 pg25) Other factors may include students' rebelliousness or students not liking or being comfortable with their classmates. . (Walker, J.E. and Shea, T.M, 1999 pg25) According to Dreikurs, misbehaviour among students is usually a need for recognition and attention. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 125)
As there are such varied causes for misbehaviour, it is vital that teachers analyse the causes of the behaviour of their students so as to provide them with helpful strategies and support to improve their behaviour. This analysis should be done by having a positive and interactive relationship with the students. (Charles, C, 1996, pg 206) Teachers should also provide personal attention towards all students to acknowledge and encourage their efforts. (Charles, C, 1996, pg 207) Teachers should also create a sense of togetherness in the classroom so that students feel at ease with one another and the teacher. Communication regularly and clearly with parents of students is also extremely essential to bring in parental support into the classroom. (Charles, C, 1996, pg 208) In this way, an atmosphere that is supportive, pleasant, encouraging and boosting self confidence as well as being non-threatening will be created. This positive atmosphere will allow teachers to better understand their students as well as the causes of their misbehaviour thus helping the teachers to implement fitting consequences and strategies in managing their behaviour.
Apart from understanding the root cause of the student's misbehaviour, teachers should also develop a framework of rules, routines and consequences from the onset of the year. The rules should be fair and equal towards all the students. Teachers should teach the students rules by demonstrating them clearly with concise explanations and role modelling suitable behaviour. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 110) This behaviour should then be practised and positive feedback should be given to students when they practice it. . (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 110) These rules should be guidelines of appropriate behaviour that the teacher expects whilst in the classroom and usually depends on the individual teacher. Examples of rules in the classroom could include "sitting quietly and listening intently when the teacher is talking" or "participating in a group discussion in an apt manner by contributing well and not fighting or speaking rudely to one another".
Teachers should intervene immediately if they notice misbehaviour in the classroom that is against the guidelines established occurring. This technique is "withitness" whereby the teachers are always aware of what is going on in the classroom. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 215) This will allow the misbehaviour to be corrected immediately and teachers could decide based on their guidelines if they want to warn the student or provide the student with a consequence. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 215) Consequences should also be applied with equality to all students and in a calm manner so that students realise that they were misbehaving and understand that their misbehaviour is against the guidelines established. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 115)
A teacher should be firm but fair. Moreover, a good technique to follow if a student has broken a rule is to help a student evaluate his/her misbehaviour and to provide support to help the student improve upon their behaviour. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 122) An example of this is to confront a student who has misbehaved by asking him/her to explain their misbehaviour to bring out the cause of the misbehaviour. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 122) After finding out the cause, the teacher should establish with the student if his/her misbehaviour is against the rules established in the classroom. If so, teachers should encourage the student to find an alternative of their behaviour or to suggest a consequence that is fair to the student. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 122) This process will enable the students to understand where and why they went wrong. This technique is called "reality therapy" and is recommended by Glasser. (McInerney, D, 1998 pg 122) This is a practical approach that enables a student to realise their misbehaviour immediately as well as provide them with alternatives of misbehaviour to handling a similar situation. Teachers should be continuously involved in the process of helping students correct their misbehaviour so that they are aware of the misbehaviour and so that discipline is instilled in them.
Apart from establishing a framework of rules and consequences, teachers should also establish a routine and an appealing curriculum in the classroom. This will help prevent boredom among the students. The classroom routine should be established at the beginning of the year and students should be made aware of it. (Rogers, B, 1990 pg 58) The routine should include smooth transitions among lessons with a prompt beginning and an appropriate concluding procedure. The learning curriculum should provide activities that are creative and innovative so that students are kept engaged and motivated to learn. Activities should also have objectives and goals that are catered to the individual students' learning and development so that all students are occupied and enjoy their tasks. .(Rogers,B, 1990 pg 58) Activities should also be pitched at the different levels of ability of the students as well as have a holistic approach encompassing the physical, social, emotional and educational aspects of development. Such an interactive curriculum will reduce the occurrence of misbehaviour, minimize the chance of disruptions and ensure maximum productive work.
In conclusion, teachers should strive to create an atmosphere in the classroom that is favourable to learning by maintaining a facilitating relationship with the students, establishing a reasonable framework of rules and consequences and finally, providing students with a curriculum that is not only motivating, but also appealing. The above mentioned techniques will allow teachers to understand the cause of misbehaviour in the classroom as well as to help curb it. This will be extremely beneficial to all the students as they will be provided with an environment that maximises their full potential in their learning and development and motivates them to succeed and achieve their goals.