Mr. Santini’s classroom has students with a range of social, emotional, and academic skills. He explicitly teaches and reinforces expectations, rules, and procedures. Despite this, he has two students who continue to struggle.
The first is Nora. She is successful across academic content areas and can usually work independently after minimal teacher-led instruction. She is a confident student, enjoys challenging assignments, and is well-liked by her peers. However, during whole-group instruction, Nora can easily become frustrated and exhibits challenging behavior. This typically happens when peers ask “silly” questions or need extra help on activities she finds easy. At times, Mr. Santini is able to quickly re-engage her in class instruction, but on other occasions Nora’s behavior escalates. She talks back and shouts at Mr. Santini before eventually putting her head down, refusing to respond. Mr. Santini has tried reminding Nora of the classroom expectations and asking her what’s wrong, but neither action calms her down.
The second student is Kai. He is outgoing and easily makes friends. He’s a hard worker and enjoys hands-on projects and working in a group. However, Kai struggles with reading and shows signs of frustration when required to read aloud or answer comprehension questions. When called on during instruction, he sighs loudly, puts his head down, and occasionally refuses to participate. His behavior can escalate from shouting to shoving everything off his desk to storming out of the classroom. Mr. Santini consistently reminds Kai that he needs to give his best effort and that everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes this reminder gets him back on track. But at other times, this approach seems to make things worse.
Mr. Santini is confused and frustrated. He wonders why his efforts aren’t consistently working for Nora and Kai.
Here’s your challenge:
What should educators understand about challenging behaviors?
How can educators recognize and intervene when student behavior is escalating?