"Understand the Symptoms" talks about four of the most common causes of student misbehavior: needing attention, needing control, boredom, and feelings of inadequacy. I've seen cases of all of these in my class, and some cases where I'm not quite sure I've identified which of these the root cause. To be sure, they often go together: a student who feels inadequate to understand the material might stop trying, get bored, and act out in order to get attention. Another student might get bored because he understands the material perfectly well and wants me to get on with it already. The tricky part is identifying root causes, and I suspect that comes with getting to know your students better. I've already gotten valuable insights on a few of my students by talking to Romeo, who seems to know a lot about everybody (which is probably part of his job description, come to think about it).
"The Teacher As Warm Demander" highlights the kind of teacher I try to be: one who communicates clear expectations but also clearly conveys an affection for the students. Being human, I sometimes have problems with conveying "unconditional positive regard" for students who are frustrating me, but I think I'm getting better at it. One of my students who was causing a lot of disruptions early on, C.R., has gotten a lot more on-task since I made an effort to slow down the pace of my instruction and explain things more clearly. I gave him one-on-one help when he was working on our drug education project, and I think that helped to show him that I did care about seeing him do well in the class.
One passage in this article that I found interesting was about learning the cultural context of students' actions:
"Gaining insight into cultural values and habits helps teachers monitor their reactions to student behaviors that they might deem "bad", but that are considered normal or even valued in the student's home culture." (p.3)
Leaving aside for the moment the thorny question of whether all cultures are equally valid/healthy/productive for their members -- particularly in a global 21st-Century society -- I'm curious about what sorts of behaviors would fall into this category for my students. What are the cultural mores and expected behaviors of Latino and African-American culture in the East Bay? Which of these manifest themselves as "bad" behavior in the classroom?
On the whole, this article was challenging for me. I saw some things in it that I'm already doing, some things that I want to do better, and some that I still need to implement. Being consistent about discipline is one area where I need some work: "Many teachers believe that they are showing students they care when they continually give 'one more chance.' Unfortunately, giving 'one more chance' demonstrates that a teacher does not mean what he or she says, and this practice could be interpreted as a lack of caring." Ouch!