How to Calm Classroom Behaviors Due to Student Anxiety


one student bullies another in a classroom - calm classroom behaviors due to anxiety

Calm These Challenging Classroom Behaviors

Challenging classroom behaviors and dealing with disruptive students in nothing new. What is new, as educators are all well aware, is the impact that increased anxiety is having on those negative behaviors. The increase in student behaviors that disrupt teaching and learning is in direct proportion to the increasing anxiety and sadness experienced by our students since the Covid-19 educational crisis.

So now what? We can publish statistics on the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of children and youth and certainly of our teachers. But isn’t what we are all seeking is a solution? As educators and service providers, we cannot control the virus or even necessarily the policies that govern when students are in the classroom and when we are all sent back and forth from classroom to remote learning, a ping pong game that is a major stressor for students, teachers and parents.

The truth is that all challenging behaviors exhibited by adults and children are an expression of an unmet need. As classroom teachers, we are with students for enough time to be able to observe which unmet need is the likely cause of a student’s challenging behavior. Once we do, we can formulate ways to satisfy that need before the behavior shows up, and eliminate the negative behavior attached to it and remove obstacles to learning.

It’s important to remember that satisfying a student’s unmet need is not the same as indulging a challenging behavior. It’s only when we satisfy the need in the midst of the disruptive behavior that we get ourselves in trouble, perpetuating the behavior.

Here is a simple classroom intervention tool we can try to make life easier for our students and for ourselves.

We start by recalling the foundation for basic behavior intervention training. There are 3 main categories of unmet needs. These are:

Attention Getting Behavior

Sensory Rush

Escape Behaviors           

Close observation over a period of a week or so will show us within which category a student’s behavior falls. Often, we make immediate assumptions on why a student is behaving in a certain way. But it’s really crucial that we take our time in the observation stage. If this sounds too time consuming, it’s really not. We simply take one student and one behavior at a time. It feels so good to begin a process that can inevitably calm the behaviors of each student, one at a time. It starts to be enjoyable to get up each morning and go into school with a whole new tool in your educational toolbox.

So, once we determine whether the student’s need is attention, sensory or escape, we can offer the student an opportunity to satisfy that need as soon as he or she walks in the classroom.  We’ve seen immediate results by spending just a few minutes on this with a particular student–five minutes of positive attention, an opportunity to “escape” by providing his own space to work, allowing a student to take a break to sketch or do whatever excites their creative juices.

Not only does this method work from a behavior intervention standpoint, but it also helps the student feel understood, or at the very least, helps him feel that we are trying to understand how to help him have a better school experience.

For more information and tools to make a Better Day for you and your students, explore A Better Day Curriculum website.














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