Balance. It’s what we all strive for in life, right? It’s what teachers need in a classroom for it to function efficiently and harmoniously. Students need a balance of hands-on activities, homework, friends, worksheets, and collaborative, critical-thinking projects. Teachers need a balance of students, curriculum, and administration. But sometimes our teaching scales are tipped over when overwhelmed with one extreme or another. One example is when a classroom is overrun with students with extreme behavior issues.
When 50% or more of the primary classroom is filled with students who are struggling with behavior issues, is it the best learning environment for children? How balanced is the education that is being provided when more of the teacher’s attention is focused on the behavior than the curriculum and instruction? Can it be successful?
When this rare circumstance occurs, I believe that the educational setting is empathetic and supportive, and the grade-level teachers will work together to help their peer with a challenging class. When the teacher is ready to give up, I feel that a true team will step forward and transfer a few challenging students to different classrooms to provide the essential balance. But here is the real pickle, what does a teacher do when it’s halfway through the school year? Is it more helpful or detrimental to the students when transferred to another classroom halfway through the school year?
If the challenging students are transferred to balance a classroom’s behavior ratio, it will benefit the students who are well-behaved and have a hunger to learn. The teacher will have more time, focus, and patience to provide rigorous, purposeful lessons that will benefit the students as 21st century learners. Also, the students in the classroom will not have the example of other behavior students to mimic.
On the other hand, if the challenging students are transferred out of the original classroom, what message is being sent to those students and their parents? Will the parents understand that it’s not the teacher’s inability to maintain classroom management but the need to create a balanced, nurturing learning environment for all students? Will the parents feel ashamed of their children’s behavior and decrease their involvement in the school community? As behavior issues usually stem from psychological issues, will the transfer to a new classroom negatively impact the student’s self-esteem?
What are your thoughts? How do we adjust classrooms in the middle of the school year to positively impact students and create balance? Is it possible?