In my daughter's class there are several pupils who are very disruptive. The teacher spends a great deal of time handling these children and it concerns me that the others seem to lose out. Also, my daughter says she has trouble concentrating because of their bad behaviour. What should I do?
I can understand your frustration and feelings that you believe your daughter may be losing out. Just one or two badly behaved or disruptive children can make a big difference to the learning in any classroom. A productive and secure ethos and a calm, reflective atmosphere are vital to set the stage for quality education.
The situation you describe is the beginning of your daughter learning some lessons for life. The reality is that she will continue to come across a broad range of people in school, during social activities and in future workplaces, some of whom have challenging or difficult personalities.
In any class there is a range of both ability and behaviour - in some cases this range can be wide, and this can be challenging even for experienced teachers, especially when they are dealing with classes of 30 or more.
One of the most useful things you can do at this stage is to help your daughter build resilience and provide her with strategies to cope.
At school, she needs to be encouraged to focus on the task in hand, avoiding distractions and not being afraid to ask the teacher or her peers for help if she is stuck. Discuss with her how she can reduce her distractions. If she comes up with some of her own ideas, it will help her to put them into practice and make good choices about her own reactions and behaviour. Self-monitoring is a powerful tool.
Talk to her about what type of learner she is and how she learns best. Perhaps she has options to choose a compatible seating partner, find a more isolated spot to work or wear earphones to aid concentration. If the teacher is aware of how your daughter is feeling, he or she can check in with her to make sure she is comfortable and confident in her learning.
A good teacher will use talent and experience to teach lessons that are interesting and stimulating so all the children are inspired to work and be positively engaged. Building a positive relationship and rapport with children who are pushing the boundaries are key elements in promoting better behaviour.
Also important is sitting with students who are good role models and checking in on them regularly to make sure they understand the task in hand. The classroom needs to be structured with clear, consistent routines and expectations.
However, with all these strategies in place, lack of self-control and finding the motivation to behave in an acceptable manner can still be very challenging to some children. This can stem from some form of attention deficit, lack of parameters or attention at home or naturally challenging personalities.
If you have concerns, you should discuss them with the school. The senior management team may be able to support a behaviour programme for certain children. Some schools mix their classes when they move to the next school year and this may be a possibility to consider.
Teachers tend to spend a lot of time and effort trying to get a good balance within each class, taking into account different academic abilities, personalities, gender and behavioural issues. This may improve the overall mix of the class.
Modern education is about teachers challenging students to experiment with ideas and solve problems rather than force-feeding them information.
Educational research shows that if children are anxious or unhappy, their ability to learn usually decreases. At the same time, be aware that children can exaggerate situations at times or view them in a different way to an adult.
Teaching demanding or difficult classes, especially those containing a wide range of abilities, can be a stressful and exhausting business. However, it is an intrinsic part of a teacher's job to manage these situations and create the best possible learning environment for the students. Julie McGuire teaches at a local primary school