Not every staff member that works with students is going to see the same situation in the same way. But the key thing is to collaborate with all stakeholders, so your students can be successful in both the virtual learning environment and face to face. 

Communication is key to making sure that things stay consistent within your classroom and that there is a partnership between home and school. 

In my classroom, I have students with complex needs from visual impairments, Autism, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Other Health Impairments. It is very important that I manage students inappropriate behaviour, while also teaching them appropriate behaviours and alternative skills. 

When students misbehave, they are trying to obtain a want or a need. They are also learning from their environments and adapting their behaviour to gain access to what motivates them the most that can be anything from avoiding a task or completely monopolizing a staff member’s time, so they can not work with the other students in the classroom.

What becomes frustrating is that each student is motivated by different factors, and one fix will not fit each student. 

Student’s do not misbehave because they are mean spirited or obstinate. All behaviour serves a purpose. The purpose may be to communicate wants and needs. Students who have communication challenges will communicate in whatever method is most effective and successful in getting what they want, whether it is appropriate or not.

All students can learn. Learning may take longer, and you may have to use different approaches and teaching strategies that are more explicit and direct than other students, but they do learn. 

Students that challenge us have three major areas of concern: communication, socialization and interests or activities. What distinguishes them from their peers, is how they interact with their peers of the same age. They may focus on a particular communication or socialization activity. 

Common behaviour problems such as aggression, tantrums and non-compliance are part of challenging students. The behaviours are a result of not knowing how to respond appropriately when they become frustrated.

An individualized program is the most effective way to affect behaviour. An individualized program that is comprehensive will not only address consequences for inappropriate behaviours but also focus on alternative behaviours. 

So I know all of this, but how can I effectively help my students achieve success. The most effective approach to shaping appropriate behaviour with challenging students is to create opportunities in the learning environment where you want positive behaviour to occur.

In order to do this you need to make sure you are doing the following  6 things:

Make the learning relevant. The more relevant a topic or subject is to your student’s the more engaged they will become in the learning process. 

Develop a code of conduct. If your students do not have a clear understanding of positive and negative behaviours, it is difficult to create a positive learning environment. 

Utilize a positive actions curriculum. Student’s who come from different cultural, socioeconomic and diverse backgrounds do not always share the same perspective. It is important that all students are being taught positive behaviours in a consistent and systematic way in the learning environment, that can be generalized across the school and home situations. 

Help your students develop intrinsic motivation. Students who feel good about themselves are more likely to help others feel good about themselves. This is especially true for elementary and middle school students. 

Reinforce positive behaviours. Recognise and reinforce the positive things that are happening in your classroom. It is the most effective way to produce positive change and actions within your students. 

Respond to positivity. Being positive is the key to helping students. It is crucial for students who challenge us every day. No matter what you go through each day, it is important that we respond and interact with students in a positive way. It is imperative that we teach students how to communicate and interact with each other in a positive way. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and/or faced with challenging behaviours that you cannot determine the route cause, then contact me so we can look at the data, develop a plan and gain all stakeholders input

I look forward to working with you. 

Nicolette Lesniak is a certified special education teacher and educational specialist with over 13 years’ experience working in the Chicagoland area. She has consulted with teachers and families throughout Chicago and NWI. You can contact her at

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