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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Three-Dimensional Model for Understanding Student Disruptive Behavior: Part One, The Group and Community Building Approach

Dimension One: The Group and Community Building Approach to Understanding Student Disruptive Behavior*

Many of our public and private schools are under siege with our students and teachers fearing for their safety and security. It seems each day we learn about new acts of violence, vandalism, sexual harassment and drug dealing that are occurring within some of our public and private educational institutions. In response to this new form of domestic school terrorism, some of our public schools are increasingly becoming fortified units where police and security guards, metal detectors, and other forms of surveillance equipment are evident.

One possible response to this problem is to transform our schools including our Jewish day and supplemental schools into caring communities of learning, places where each member of the community is personally responsible for his/her learning and is also concerned about the academic, social and emotional well-being of others. The values of these communities of learning such as doing one’s personal best, caring and taking responsibility for others, respecting self and others, etc. are discussed, debated, agreed upon, and ultimately evidenced through the daily interactions of its constituents. Accordingly, issues about student responsibility and self-discipline are not the major focus within a community of learning (COL) because of the shared value system of the community. Schools which become COL are now focused on academic achievement, and positive social and emotional development, not the security and safety needs of its constituents.

What is the relationship between the group and community building approach to understanding student disruptive behavior and the creation of caring learning communities?

According to the group and community building approach to understanding student irresponsible behavior, some students disobey and disrespect school rules, policies and procedures because they appear to be undemocratic, unreasonable, illogical and unfair. These students perceive school policies as arbitrary interventions designed for the convenience of the central board/district, administrators and teachers, and are not derived out of the real psychological needs of students. This group and community building approach suggests that when school policies, procedures and rules are perceived by students as being reasonable, logical, and fair, and are created through a democratic process, there is little need to protest and violate school standards and norms. Thus the transformation of a school into a caring community of learners is a practical application of the group and community approach to understanding student disruptive behavior. Accordingly, classroom and school-wide activities which foster the development of group and community and facilitate cohesion are encouraged. We will elaborate on specific community building activities for the Judaic classroom and school in a later post.

On the next post we will describe the second component of our three dimensional approach to understanding student disruptive behavior: The Intrapersonal Dimension.

*Adapted from Solomon, R. & Solomon E. (2008). Increasing Student Responsibility and Self-Discipline Within Learning Communities: The Participant’s Guide. Tucson, AZ: Fourth R Consulting.

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