Despite our best attempts at successful classroom management, hostile situations can and do arise in the classroom setting. As teachers, we spend our time trying to diffuse the situation so that we can get back to the real focus of learning. However, it is wise for us to take some time and think about what triggers actually cause hostile behavior in school. Following are six items that can lead to students lashing out in class. After a hostile event has occurred, it is a good idea to reflect on which of the following things might have been its root cause and, if possible, make adjustments in the future.
1. Adjustment to New Situations
Students might experience difficulties in adjusting to new situations in their lives. For example, moving to a new school can cause a lot of fear and anxiety amongst students. Students moving from middle school to high school or moving schools mid-year due to relocation can misbehave due to the situation.
2. Academic Difficulties
Students who are struggling to understand a topic or keep up with what is being taught can misbehave. Their actions are borne out of fear. This can especially be apparent when a student does not have the prerequisite knowledge to understand the current topic of discussion. For example, in a mathematics class, a student who has never really understood trigonometric functions would feel lost and fearful when lesson plans include these. Hostility usually shows through when students are 'put on the spot' requiring to show what they perceive as their own ignorance on the subject.
3. Incongruence Between Home and School
Issues in a student's home life can bleed through to their attitudes and behaviors during the school day. If the situation at home is abusive or neglectful, students might lash out at school. If you suspect abuse in any form, it is important to bring this up with guidance and report it to the authorities. In fact, in most areas it is illegal not to report suspected abuse of students with whom you come into contact.
4. Violation of Expectations
If a student has certain expectations about what they are going to be doing in a class or how they should be treated, and these expectations are violated, then they might be belligerent. This situation is often what happens when substitute teachers attempt to teach the subject matter to students. They have set up an expectation of what they expect from substitutes. When the substitute teacher tries to make students mind and do the work required for the class, they can sometimes be met with iciness or hostility.
5. Perceived Threats
Students can act out when they perceive a threat of some kind. For example, of they have a fear that a teacher is being unfair to them, they might react with hostility. This can also occur when there is a fear of racism or sexism. Keeping your classroom prejudice free is very important to reduce these types of situations. Talk about prejudice and make sure that you never ignore situations that can lead to perceived threats by one or more individuals.
6. Unpredictable Teacher Behavior
Teachers must strive to act fairly and consistently each and every day, two of six important keys to successful teaching. When students don't know what to expect from their teacher each day, then all is lost. Teachers who are unpredictable, one day acting very strict and the next quite lax, students will lose respect for the teacher and learning will be seriously reduced. Further, students will begin to rebel at some point.