8 Things Teachers Do To Encourage Misbehavior

8 Things Teachers Do To Make Classroom Management More DifficultTeachers cause much of the misbehavior in their classrooms.

True, students come to class with behavior issues and personal agendas. Some are prone to misbehavior and are difficult to deal with. A few may even enjoy trying to disrupt your class.

But more often than not, the teacher is the problem.

If you were a fly on the wall of teachers who struggle with classroom management, you would find many commonalities. Among them are teacher behaviors that actually encourage students to misbehave.

Teaching is challenging enough. Putting yourself behind the eight ball by your own doing can make it unbearable.

Let There Be Light

The only classroom management-related problems that don’t have solutions are those we’re unaware of. Once illuminated, there is always a way to solve the problem or make it manageable.

In that spirit, the following list represents things teachers do unknowingly that encourage misbehavior.

1. Talking over students.

Talking over students breeds inattentiveness, side-talking, and poor listening. If your students have trouble following directions, this is often the culprit. The simple solution is to wait until you have the full attention of your class before speaking.

2. Rushing around.

Being in a hurry creates tension in the classroom, causing restlessness, excitability, and poor behavior. This common mistake is easily corrected by trimming the fat from your curriculum, being better prepared, and then slowing down.

3. Answering call-outs.

Answering students who don’t raise their hand encourages disrespect and communicates to your students that your classroom management plan is no longer valid. Condition yourself not to respond no matter who asks a question or how insightful it may be.

4. Moving on.

Continuing with lessons or instructions when students are inattentive–or worse–lets them know that less than their best is good enough. Wait until your students are giving you exactly what you want before moving on.

5. Negative thinking.

Negative thoughts about students always bubble to the surface–body language, tone of voice, sarcasm–causing resentment, misbehavior and, ultimately, revenge. Choose to see the best in your students… and that’s what they’ll give you.

6. Irritability.

Showing frustration, taking behavior personally, reacting emotionally. These self-sabotaging behaviors will weaken your influence and undermine your ability to control your classroom. Instead, keep your cool and lean heavily on your classroom management plan.

7. Clutter.

Classroom clutter shows a lack of pride that rubs off on students and leads to unwanted behavior–the broken windows theory at work. A pin-neat, attractive classroom, on the other hand, is congruent with, and transfers to, values like hard work, neatness, respect, and character.

8. Self-defeat.

Believing that students decide whether or not you have a good class is a belief that virtually eliminates the possibility of creating the teaching experience you really desire. The fact is, we create the class we want, not our students.

The Heart Of The Matter

These eight teacher behaviors cut straight to the heart of why so many teachers struggle with classroom management.

Rules and procedures. Incentives and consequences. They’re important, to be sure.

But they alone are not the answer.

You must get to the heart of the matter, which is deeper than stickers, strategies, charts, or time-outs. It’s more than outside circumstances. More than names on a roster.

The heart of the matter is you.

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42 Responses to 8 Things Teachers Do To Encourage Misbehavior

  1. Samantha December 4, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    I am studying to be an elementary school teacher and one of our assignments is to blog about our experiences along with asking other teachers questions. I have read some of your blogs and I am interested to know what you think about the book “Cooperative Discipline” by Linda Albert. That is, if you are familiar with it. I was wondering if you agree with some of the approaches.

    In my classroom I have a student who tries to gain attention by acting out. I don’t think that what she is doing is for a power struggle, but more for attention. (I could be totally wrong though.) A few times she has been asked to stay in from recess (for about 10 minutes) as “punishment” for her behavior. She normally sharpens pencils or does stuff around the classroom to help our community. The only thing is is that she seems to enjoy doing these things. If she enjoys her “punishment” don’t you think it would encourage her to misbehave/treat her classmates disrespectfully? What would your recommendations be to giving her the attention she wants/needs while having her learn respect for her classmates/teachers/whomever?

    • Michael Linsin December 4, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Samantha,

      Sorry, I haven’t heard of the book. To answer your second question, I wrote about needing/giving attention in the article How To Stop Wasting Time And Attention On Difficult Students. I hope you’ll check it out. It should answer your questions. If you’re unsure of anything after reading the article, email me. I’m happy to help.


  2. Nicole P December 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    I find what you’re saying really useful. I think I’m guiltiest of Moving On. When the class falls silent about a particular piece of literature or a question I have prompted them with after I have rephrased it several ways, I do have a tendency to just feel defeated and give up. It’s definitely my weakness.

    I’m not sure I agree with #3, though. I agree that we should try to maintain a respectful atmosphere by not allowing students to shout over one another or interrupt others, but I think “raise your hand” isn’t always the best policy. There are many times when I tell my students not to bother raising hands (though they often do anyway from habit). When we have class discussions, we are having a conversation. I think that sometimes hand raising becomes a show of teachers exerting their authority, and I think that sometimes students shout out of term because they feel that their teachers are ignoring them (and I’ve seen that actually be the case). Hand-raising only becomes necessary if conversation becomes heated and many voices want to speak at once. Of course, my students are college students, and the same self-control isn’t necessarily developed in younger students.

    • Darian March 30, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

      I use this technique in middle school. Students are often self-conscious and I get better responses when I don’t ask for raised hands. Does it sometimes get loud? Yes. Do I have to reel them back in? Yes. But I get more feedback and fewer blank stares – win-win in my book!

  3. Sam Rangel December 5, 2010 at 12:02 am #

    Great post Michael. I agree completely with all 8, even though I’m still working on improving on numbers 3 and 7. I think this is great advice that teachers, especially new teachers need to heed. I’ve made it my Power Post of the day. Thanks again.

  4. Jessica Balsley December 5, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Hi! I am an art teacher who blogs at The Art of Education. I was wondering if you have ever posted any content regarding managing specialist when you are a specialist, such as art, music, PE, etc? These areas have special dynamics that need special attention in our schools. Thanks so much!

    • Michael Linsin December 5, 2010 at 10:46 am #

      Hi Jessica,

      I haven’t yet written an article addressing the unique management challenges of art, music, and PE teachers, but I plan to in the future.


  5. @CreativeEdu December 6, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    Another great post. This is a really interesting spin on the idea too! I think this checklist will prove very useful to lots of my colleagues.

    I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here: http://ow.ly/3kr11

  6. David Wees December 6, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    This is a great list, and I agree with 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 but I disagree with #3 on the list.

    It’s not the call-outs you have to ignore, it’s the people who speak out of turn. The point of the hand being raised used to be to establish the teacher as the firm authority in the room of whom could speak and when. In a constructivism classroom, with the teacher as a guide on the side, this authority also needs to be ceded to the greater moral authority, speak when it’s your turn to speak.

    If you choose to let hands be the way that everyone knows whose turn it is to speak, then that’s fine but the teacher should raise their hands too… I think it’s more important that students learn about taking turns.

    Nothing is more embarrassing to me than when I’m having a conversation with my friends and I feel compelled to raise my hand so everyone knows it’s my turn to speak next…

  7. Bryan December 6, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    This post was extremely helpful…thanks Michael. I have had problems with classroom management and I’m working hard to increase my competency in it.

    I have a question: Is it possible to make a classroom too exciting?

    • Michael Linsin December 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

      Hi Bryan,

      Good question. Not if you have good classroom management skills. In fact, they go hand in hand. Good management ensures that your students don’t lose control, that they know how to have fun without going overboard. Exciting lessons and activities contribute to your leverage. When students like being in your classroom, classroom management is much easier.


  8. Kathy December 7, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    I taught a math lesson today with number “4” “Moving On” in mind. I stopped talking until I had everyone’s attention. Wouldn’t you know it, one of my defiant students, who had been less so lately, decided to challenge and wouldn’t NOT attend…in my opinion..on purpose. His classmates were getting verbally mad at him to the point that I became frustrated and finished the lesson. What do I do about students like that?

  9. Sharon December 17, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    Great article. Unfortunately, I see myself in several of the items listed. I have been trying out your suggestions and they do work well. I must admit, the hardest one for me is not talking so much and explaining more than necessary. I will keep working on that.
    Thanks for the constructive advice and concrete suggestions.

  10. Jessica September 10, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    I actually come back and check this post occasionally, to measure myself in these areas. I would say that last year, I was guilty of all 8. During the summer (partly due to extenuating circumstances), I was guilty of #7. This fall, so far, I have been guilty of #3 very infrequently, and have managed to control #7 so it only happens on my desk (controlling all my papers is hard! But the rest of the room looks great). I must admit, I’m quite proud of my improvement 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Way to go, Jessica!

  11. TN sharma March 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm #


    Its great to know about the classroom management system. Its been really useful to all. Thanks a lot.

    • Michael Linsin March 18, 2012 at 7:53 am #

      You’re welcome!

  12. Lucy March 7, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    im a graduate of accountancy and im taking education units at present, i bumped into this article sure its very helpful especially for me with no experience of teaching that all 🙂 Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin March 7, 2013 at 7:49 am #

      You’re welcome, Lucy!


  13. Latoya Lewis October 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    I appreciate your tips and I must admit that I fall short in the neat pin classroom area. I am working on it, though.

    • Michael Linsin October 31, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      You can do it, Latoya!


  14. Mark Russell October 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Great post Michael. I agree completely that this is yet another in a long list of articles that admits that there are students whose purpose is to disrupt the class, and who will do so no matter what the teacher does, and yet WE MUST blame the teacher because no one has the guts to discipline those students. Way to tell teachers, “great job, losers.”

  15. Diana Smith October 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I think your article was right on the mark. After ten years of public/private school teaching and supervising I focused on my small tutoring company. I still substitute teach when possible to stay in the loop and keep up with current trends and stay on top of the climate.

    I have always had a simple, clear, and effective classroom management strategy which I go over with the students on day one very clearly and concisely making sure the kids understand the rules, the reasons behind the rules and the consequences of not following the rules. Some testing of the rules usually happened-a couple times at most. Once they saw it was what I said it was and what they agreed to, even having an opportunity when introduced to the rules to ask questions or if they thought something was unfair to let them explain their point. Again, rarely a student would challenge a rule and the class would get to vote on whether or not his point was valid. The class never did.

    I notice as a sub there are a lot of factors involved some having little to do with the teacher or class management skills, but one of overwhelming expectations and time frames making it nearly impossible for the teachers to have meaningful learning time while meeting all expected items for each day. Add a few children with challenges, some with aids some without, and there’s a whole new series of challenges.

    In this PT position it’s even more important for me to establish an atmosphere of authority, but not in an aggressive or mean spirited way, but with an understanding from the kids that we have a plan for the day they are expected to complete. If we wait for children not following rules, not raising their hands, kids talking during quiet activities, etc., we won’t achieve our goal. as their sub teacher one of my goals is to provide them opportunities to do things a little differently and to learn about flexibility choices. Once they understand the expectations, most jump at the chance to maybe do a yoga posture or spend 5 minutes extra at recess. Plus, by allowing them to do everyday activities a little differently than routine while getting the job done they enjoy it so much they are active participants. I include them in areas they don’t usually participate in, and well-behaved kids or kids working hard get chances to “teach” the other kids when they get the answers right, or they become “featured artists” when they put extra work into the pictures, etc. We meet the schedule every time, and I never have to raise my voice, threaten consequences (another blockage-excessive “work” related to monitoring behaviors). I don’t have time, and if a child refuses to follow class plan they do not participate or have choices and they do NOT like that, so I have huge compliance. Plus putting kids labeled as “trouble” in leadership roles when they good behaviors empowers them.

    So, thanks for your article and again, I think this area is so undervalued. For me, it all starts here, and how the rest goes depends on its success. So I do recommend keeping it simple, fair and enforced across the board.
    Diana Smith, M.S., Ed

    • Michael Linsin October 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      Hi Diana,

      Thanks so much for sharing your insight. I hope you become a regular reader.


  16. Catherine Dinh November 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    I am a teaching intern at University of Michigan’s Secondary Masters with Certification program. I am interning in Ann Arbor and am intrigued by these tips. It is hard to distinguish whether misbehavior of students is due to my intern status or my classroom management actions. But reading your list, I realize that I have shamefully committed so many on this list – unconsciously. Now that I am conscious, I feel like that is the step toward obtaining the ideal classroom.
    My question is – do you have classroom management tips for student teachers (who don’t control classroom design or institute consequences)? What can non-regular teachers do to ensure good behavior?

    Thanks again!

    • Michael Linsin November 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

      Hi Catherine,

      The more prepared you are when you step in front of your students, the better. Thus, I believe all the tips and strategies you find on this website to be relevant for you now as a student teacher as well as in the future. I recommend digging into the archive, where you’ll find over 250 articles covering every classroom management topic imaginable.


  17. MUSA ADEKUNLE November 11, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    nice.. I added to my knowledge

  18. Suzanne February 24, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    Thank you for this reflection on how teachers can impact student behavior. I plan on sharing this information with the teachers in my PLC.

    • Michael Linsin February 24, 2016 at 8:01 am #

      You’re welcome, Suzanne.


  19. Sue March 29, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

    I agree with most of these 8; however, to my way of thinking it is imperative that planning with the students in mind is the single most effective management method. I also believe that sending a student out to the Principal is a critical error. You lose student and administrator respect-for the same reasons-you don’t have a plan, you lack execution, you haven’t got the ability to engage students in meaningful learning. Just my opinion of course.

  20. Mary March 30, 2016 at 3:20 am #

    I find this article very unsupportive. It’s all on the teacher? I work in a low SES school. There are so many behaviour problems. In one of my classes, I have 23 students who ALL have a diagnosis ranging from ASD, ODD, ADD, IM, dyslexia and dyspraxia. They all have literacy skills years below their age group, many lack social skills and many have difficult home lives. There are also 2 ESL students. But according to this article the misbehaviour stems from my teaching.

  21. Marcie White March 30, 2016 at 7:47 pm #


    Although I agree with some of your points above, I strongly disagree with number 7 – clutter. Yes, tidiness is preferable. However drawing a direct correlation between clutter and a lack of pride or effort in my teaching is utter nonsense. As a veteran teacher who manages multiple preps, I fight a constant battle with clutter. And if I were to rank this in significance in terms of challenges to my classroom management abilities, it wouldn’t even make the list. Asserting that I should have a pin-neat classroom in order to effectively manage my students behavior or teach them core values is, in my opinion, rather ridiculous. They learn these things by the way that I interact with them, the effort that they see me put into my teaching (not my tidying), and the standard to which I hold their understanding, effort, and behavior. I am in my classroom working, on average, 50 hours a week and yet my classroom remains cluttered, despite my best intentions. And honestly, it is and will continue to be, the least of my worries.

    • Michael Linsin March 31, 2016 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Marcie,

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but the research says otherwise. This will be covered extensively in the new book, The Happy Teacher Habits.


      • Mick Wall April 12, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

        That was research conducted with a narrow swath of teachers and students. It was, no doubt, produced by a think tank, also known as Corporate Reform.

        They start with the idea they want to prove (usually teachers are the cause of the any set of various problems) and then they conduct the study until they get the results they desired.

        • Michael Linsin April 13, 2016 at 7:21 am #

          Hi Mick,

          I’m not familiar with the research you’re referring to. Please check out the book if you get a chance. You may be convinced otherwise. 🙂


  22. Donna Valentin April 5, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    I am a teacher and you must have been lucky enough to work in a system where you were given the freedom to change your curriculum as you needed. I have worked where I was given a curriculum and a timeline and when observed needed to be within that and not allowed to change. So your thoughts on that area are pretty hard to follow. I do not agree that it is all the teacher.

  23. Patricia selman April 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

    I’m a retired teacher and plan to sub next year. 2016-2017. I’d love your information