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Behaviors At School

The Agitator

Action: Identify causes of misbehavior. Pinpoint student needs being revealed. Employ specific methods, procedures, and techniques at school and at home for getting the child to modify or change his/her behavior.

Primary Causes of Misbehavior

Power
The need for power is expressed by creating situations that demonstrate this student's ability to be in control.

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Hunger/Thirst
The lack of proper food and rest may be causing this child to be acting this way.

Sex/Sexuality
Because of past experiences, this person may find it very difficult to establish any positive relationships.

Rest
The lack of food and rest may be a form of abuse and should be investigated.

Escape from Pain
This student protects him/herself by the use of power to cover his/her pain.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

Aggression
This student has a need to control.

Inquisitiveness
This student may have a strong need to know what's going on. He/she wants to know the why behind what we're doing and what's going on.

Power


Status
This student may be trying to achieve through agitation.

Actions to Take
  • Remember that the agitator's biggest fear is exposure; basically he/she is a pretender as well as a coward. The agitator cannot accept the full and open responsibility of a leadership position, but needs others to fulfill his/her needs.

  • Identify the agitator through these two behaviors: First, he/she is always present-but appears to be an innocent bystander-in trouble situations. Second, he/she is never personally involved in any dispute, if it can be avoided. Whenever you observe an ever-present innocent bystander, look for his/her position of leadership in group situations.

  • Indicate tactfully and professionally, in a private conference, that the disguise has been revealed. This will curtail his/her activities almost immediately.

  • Be careful not to make a total accusation-for he/she can easily deny involvement.

  • Seriously, but gently, tell the student that you suspect what he/she is doing. You may add that you have the professional obligation to discuss this deceitful behavior with parents, his/her other teachers, and administrators.

  • Regardless of the student's response, fear will be his/her emotion. Treat this fear kindly.

  • Listen carefully, then show concern. When you operate in a professional manner in this regard the agitator will make every effort to improve and to make sure that you know he/she is trying. Therefore, confront ... in a caring way ... always.

  • When you confront, use the " What Is More Important Than Why" technique. Don't ask why the student did something. The student may not even know he/she is agitating. Regardless, "why" is not the immediate issue. You can talk about "why" later. Ask what he/she did, and what he/she is going to do about it. You may even skip asking what the student did-and tell him/her. However, you must ask what he/she is going to do about it.

  • Recognize and acknowledge his/her efforts to improve. Otherwise, the agitating may begin again.

  • Be specific about what kind of behavior you expect. Don't generalize.

  • Be sure the agitator knows that you are not going to forget his/her past actions. Tell the student you want to support positive behavior, and that any time there is even the slightest indication that he/she is beginning to agitate again you will confront him/her about it and stop it immediately.

  • Assign special duties to the agitator-such as passing out papers, erasing boards, etc. This helps to meet the need for attention and power.

  • Use group and peer pressure in sincere and straightforward ways to help motivate this student to change his/her behavior. This is easily done by making the agitator the appointed leader. Remember, he/she wants influence, but not responsibility. Yet, responsibility is what will change the behavior.

  • Set up a contract with the student. Make specific agreements about what should be done, when and where it should be done, and how it should be done.

  • Try to remain objective and emotionally neutral.

  • Remember, the student who resists authority knows where the power is, yet has chosen a course which he/she knows offers severe consequences. It's almost a form of suicide for the student. Look at such resistance for what it really is a cry for help. It says everything from "I don't understand" to "I don't know what to do but fight."

  • Rather than fearing such occurrences or regarding them as horrendous episodes, look upon them as opportunities to help a student work through a problem that can only cause trouble for a lifetime. Begin by showing a willingness to listen and talk privately.

  • Fully understand that behind every student rejection is an overwhelming feeling of failure or frustration. That's why teaching rather than forcing is the best course to take. Any other road leads toward a destructive kind of confrontation and puts a teacher on the same level as the distressed student. Hopefully, this is not the road we would choose to take just to prove our power.

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Please Note
We are labeling behaviors, not children! For the sake of convenience, we will describe behaviors with terms such as The Whiner or The Interrupter.

Never use such labels when talking to—or about—children! Doing so could cause many new problems and seriously damage the teacher-student or parent-child relationship.