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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teachers say students' behavior is bad, and getting worse

Half of U.S. teachers say most of their students exhibit poor or fair behavior, according to a Pew survey. The numbers are almost identical for academic performance.


Sixty-eight percent of teachers say they've been verbally abused by a student, with 21 percent saying it happens a few times a month or more. Forty percent of teachers have been attacked by a violent student; 9 percent say this happens at least a few times a month.


Discipline practices are "very or somewhat mild" at their school, say 66 percent of teachers; 2 percent say discipline is "very or somewhat harsh."


Finally, two-thirds say teachers have little influence on determining discipline practices at their school.


It's hard to keep teachers in the classroom if they feel disrespected , endangered and exhausted, notes Beanie of Freedom in Education (also the mother of four) on X. Check out the responses.


Teacher morale has "fallen off a cliff"in the last year, tweets Andy Jacob, citing a new poll.


It's not just an issue in U.S. schools writes Holly Korbey in a story for TES Magazine. Student behavior is a growing problem in Britain, Australia and Europe, teachers report. "Even in places with little in-class violence, more schools report higher rates of students being disruptive, off-task, disrespectful and chronically absent."


Only 30 percent of U.S. teachers receive pre-service training in effective classroom management practices, says the National Council on Teacher Quality. "These include how to establish rules and routines, and set expectations for behaviour; how to manage time and engage students; and how to reinforce positive behaviour and redirect off-task behaviour," writes Korbey.


(Side note: My brother just finished online training to qualify as a substitute teacher in Oregon. There was lots on blood-borne diseases and what to do about a school shooter, he said. He was about to do the only in-person lesson, which was on classroom management.)


As in the U.S., some British educators stress meeting children's "emotional needs," while "others opt for a more structured approach, centered on rules, norms and consequences," she writes.


Schools that provide safe environments with few disruptions and behavior problems "seem to have much in common," even if they have different philosophies, Korbey writes. "Both kinds appear to have detailed behaviour plans, good communication with educators and staff and -- importantly -- parents, and focus on building relationships with students and having high, specific expectations."


Kulvarn Atwal runs two primary schools that use the "restorative" approach, but says it only works if the underlying culture supports it. “If a child is hitting the same child again and again, then it’s not working,” he says. “We aren’t a school that has no sanctions.”


Barry Smith, a former headteacher who is now a behavior consultant, is known "for his orderly, some might say militaristic, adults-are-in-charge ideas around managing behaviour," Korbey writes. Smith agrees with Atwal about "the need to foster a safe, positive environment."


"Schools should be built on relationships and school culture is built on mutual genuine respect,” Smith says. “The adults are the boss. I’m the boss, and I’m going to tell you what to do - but I’m a very kind boss.”


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