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Behaviors
Behaviors At School

The Nonparticipator

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

Attention
This student may be asking to be noticed by being a nonparticipator.

Self-Confidence
This student does not feel capable of accomplishing the tasks of the school. Rather than disclose this feeling to peers and teachers, he/she does not participate.

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Hunger/Thirst


Rest


Air


Escape from Pain
The student may be very fearful of failures and thus may withdraw from active participation in the class.

Elimination of Waste
Parents should be consulted concerning the need for a physical check-up. The primary needs of hunger, thirst, air, rest, and elimination of waste should be investigated.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

Inquisitiveness
This student needs to know that he/she can do the work and can be in control of his/her learning.

Achievement
Care should be taken that tasks assigned can be completed by this student. The student needs to feel and know that his/her efforts will be accepted and appreciated.

Actions to Take
  • Approach the warning signs of boredom and indifference immediately. Without a quick counseling, two behaviors may follow. The student may begin coming to class late, then not coming at all. Most research on drop-outs indicates heavy absence began in elementary school. In addition, once the student gets behind, he/she often becomes defensive. As the year progresses, the child may become hostile. Then you will know this student is in class.

  • As a beginning, be aware of the absolute need to give this student a degree of academic leeway and flexibility. If you don't, experience reveals that the nonparticipator usually begins to display three attitudes: feeling confined, comparing school with serving a jail sentence, and showing contempt for authority.

  • Never move away from this student emotionally. Rather, move in and ask, "Why?" Say, "I don't understand, but I'm going to try," or "You may give up on yourself, but I'm not going to give up on you."

  • Remember that there is usually a deeper problem underlying the surface behavior. Failure is a cause and so is the fact that this student will do anything to avoid his/her real problems, whatever they are. That's why the student says, "Nobody likes me" and "Everybody gives me a hard time."

  • There's an aggression in this student's refusal to participate which dares and challenges. Don't rise to that bait, however, or the war will have been won by the student.

  • Always use acceptance as your strategic action approach. Fortunately, there's one action this student can't handle-your refusal to reject or condemn. The student expects both because he/she sees good reasons for you to disapprove. Your refusal to quit offers the best chance for success.

  • First and foremost, establish contact with this student. A close look will reveal that the nonparticipator has few, if any, meaningful relationships with other adults.

  • In order to heighten the self-concept of the nonparticipator, share with this student the contribution he/she makes to the learning that goes on in class. Establish the kind of atmosphere in which the student feels comfortable in depending on you for help-and giving help as well. The student must feel the teacher is there to create a climate of mutual dependence.

  • Your first help should be private. During this first meeting, confront in a caring and factual way. You may say, "I'm not going to allow you not to participate. If I let you get behind, you won't catch up." Only after a relationship is firmly established can the student be told, "If you want to stay in class, you must do assignments, be on time, and bring materials." It's amazing to find out how much the nonparticipator wants caring demands from teachers after a relationship is established.

  • Every nonparticipator experiences failure in the classroom setting. The student will feel safer if he/she can ally with the familiar and secure. Therefore, whether this student likes snakes or cars, adjust your teaching efforts to his/her secure interests.

  • Likewise, make sure lack of interest or absence is not linked to insecurity. Remember, if coming late to class is unpleasant, the student won't come.

  • Establishing a relationship rather than rejecting will help give the student esteem and prestige with classmates and may prevent others from teasing or looking down on him/her. Remember, self-actualization can only be realized by inclusion.

  • Remember, right and wrong cannot be the issue if you want to change this behavior. If you hold fast to class rules, you may never get the opportunity to win with this student.

  • Don't refuse to give this student supplies when he/she doesn't bring them to class. If you do refuse, a bigger problem may loom ahead.

  • Ask yourself two questions: "Do I really want this student here?" and "Do I want to drive him/her away?" These questions must be answered before you can help the nonparticipator. Your answers will determine your actions. If you really want to hold this student in school, you'll be able to make the necessary adjustment. If you don't, you won't be able to do any adjusting.

  • Be flexible with the nonparticipator.

  • Remember to call on those students whose hands are not raised to volunteer answers. Don't form any prejudgments because some students lack the confidence to volunteer participation. They may be sitting at their desks during discussions hoping to be called upon. Few of us have not had the experience of wanting to say something when we didn't-and wishing later we had. A watchful eye would have noticed our partially raised hands, our eagerness, or the look of involvement on our faces. Only by watching those you teach can you develop the potential of all students-not just those who repeatedly assert themselves.

  • Helping the nonparticipator takes time. Therefore, develop a willing attitude about giving your time. Otherwise, little change is possible. This student needs a relationship with an adult.

  • Make time to talk with and listen to students who are not participating. Many of them feel removed from their teacher and classmates. Class study time is an ideal opportunity for such contact. First, identify the nonparticipants. Second, make sure you have private words with them at least once each week. You may find your private efforts result in better participation as well as the development of closer teacher-student relationships. However, keep in mind that the privacy of students should be protected. Therefore, make sure that classmates do not know what you are talking about, or your efforts will not produce the desired results.

  • Remember, without giving attention, it is often difficult to maintain good adult-child relationships. This is especially true regarding relationships with the nonparticipator. You must be careful not to shut this student out of your mind. Remember, "out of mind, out of expectations" can happen easily with a student who doesn't do well academically. Never forget, this is the kid who needs you the most. The student knows it-and so should you. If you don't, the student is likely to believe that he/she shouldn't be in school.

  • You may find that class discussion periods are times when you exert increased control of student behavior. If this is the case, examine the types of questions you are using to stimulate discussion. Ask yourself, "Do the questions I ask generally terminate group thinking and involve only the one student being questioned?" Good questions provoke, elevate, and sustain thought from all students in the class. When the level of questioning is elevated beyond simple recall responses, there is increased participation by all students and the teacher will have fewer management difficulties.

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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.