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Classroom Management - Students Who Fall Through The Cracks

Adam Waxler

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Many experts in education agree that the majority of students who are causing classroom management problems usually fall into one of four categories: attention seekers, power seekers, revenge seekers, and those avoiding repeated failure.

Let's focus on this last group. . . those students who are avoiding repeated failure.

As a middle school social studies teacher this is one I see all the time. By the time these students have gotten to 8th grade they have experienced enough failure in school that their goal is simply to avoid any more. It is much easier on this student's self-esteem to not do the assignment than it is to do the assignment and fail again.

Therefore, these students withdraw from the classroom (and the system).

These are the students who come up with excuse after excuse why they did not turn in the assignment, the ones who appear to be sleeping with their eyes open, the ones who so easily fall through the cracks. . .

While these students may not be causing outright behavior problems, it is still a classroom management issue.


Simple, these students take up a great deal of the teacher's time. . . the teacher needs to continuously try to get these students on task thereby taking time away from the lesson while at the same time providing more opportunity for other students to “act-out".

Plus, it is simply exhausting work for the teacher.

Therefore, it is easy for teachers to simply stop putting in so much effort to help these students who are refusing to help themselves. As teachers we feel there is only so much we can do so at some point we just stop. . . which is exactly what the student wants us to do and it is exactly why so many of these students “fall through the cracks".

However, we can't let this happen. As teachers it is our job to make sure these students DON"T fall through the cracks.

So what's a teacher to do?

Well, for one, teachers should be very careful about comparing students. Teachers compare students all the time in their classes and this can do a great deal of damage to those “at-risk" students.

Here are some examples of how teachers compare students on regular basis in the classroom:

1. Posting student's grades. Even with a “secret code", posting student grades still has the “at-risk" student seeing his low grade compared to all the other high grades.

2. Posting number of books read, spelling words right, best artwork has the “at-risk" student seeing himself as not able to read, spell, or draw.

3. Putting a student's name on the board when they break a rule is a humiliation that can last a lifetime.

I am not trying to tell teachers not to do these things. . . I realize that many are common teacher practices. I also realize that teachers want to honor students who did put in the effort by displaying their work and that this can have a positive effect on many students by providing quality examples of a teacher's expectations.

However, I also think it is important for teachers to be aware of the affect that these practices may have on the at-risk students.

As we know, these “at-risk" students easily fall through the cracks of the system, the question is. . . are we as teachers actually contributing to this. . . are we actually “pushing" them through the cracks?

If you can't manage your classroom you can't teach! Fortunately, Adam Waxler, a full-time social studies teacher and adjunct education professor, has developed a FREE 5-part classroom management e-course. For more information about this FREE course visit:


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