(Editor's note: The essays presented here -- the winner and runner-up respectively -- were written for competition in the Media Day High School Essay Contest sponsored by Augusta West Rotary Club.)
The clash between disruptive student behavior and the successful functioning of a school affects every aspect of the school environment. A disruptive student is someone who interrupts the orderly course of a classroom. His insolence discourages teachers and exasperates serious-minded classmates. Nevertheless, teachers, peers and parents can all play parts in helping these students to be more productive.
Teachers should strive to develop a good rapport with disruptive pupils so that these students feel obliged to respect the teacher's authority. Teachers need to take a genuine interest in them, because problem students often do not receive needed attention at home. It is important to show them teachers care about all their students' well-being and want to help the troublemakers succeed too. Teachers should not only be instructors, but also friends.
Other students can play a less official, but equally instrumental, role in helping control disruptive behavior. Since students are more likely to listen to their peers, classmates can tactfully let the disruptive one know his behavior is hurting everyone in the room. When the student who is disturbing (the) class realizes his actions are causing others to suffer, he may take a look at his attitude and make adjustments. Students, as well as teachers, can give positive and negative feedback to their fellow classmates.
Learning begins in the home; therefore, parents have a major responsibility when it comes to the development of their children. Parents must give their children not only love and attention, but also the discipline they need. Teens need more, not less, parental guidance, love and support. Often, lack of positive and consistent involvement is at the root of rebellion and disruptiveness. (An) understanding, listening ear at home could weed out potential problems at school before they start.
The problems modern schools face are serious but not insurmountable. Teachers can help by taking an interest in disruptive students. Students can help by taking advantage of their unique role in the lives of their classmates. Parents can help by providing emotional stability and setting limits. For persistently disruptive students, alternative school must be used.
In the alternative school, mentors should be provided to work with students on a daily basis. With everyone involved and working cooperatively, disruptions would decrease and schools could become better places for learning.
Jennifer Harmon, Hephzibah Comprehensive High School
The key to every great learning experience is the environment. Students lacking self-control can undermine the most advanced textbooks and even the world's greatest teachers. The fact that a wonderful opportunity for knowledge can be destroyed by only a few students is very discouraging. An environment plagued by disruptions makes learning for those who want to learn, extremely difficult.
A more focused and effective learning experience requires many changes. The most important is a strong and well-supported discipline system. Students need rules as well as consequences for rules (that) are disobeyed. Teachers who threaten disciplinary action but do not carry through with their threats contribute greatly to a disruptive environment. This sends a confusing message to the students. This inconsistency leads to a total lack of respect for authority. In order to make the learning environment more stable and favorable to learning, the teachers should be caring, but firm.
It is a necessity that teachers have an administration they can count on for support and consistency. Teachers, for example, have no power to suspend students. They need principals who will take this step when appropriate and principals need the support of the superintendent and school board members. Only they have the power to establish disciplinary rules and enforce consequences such as expulsion.
Eliminating classroom disruption depends ultimately upon the maturity of students and their willingness to conduct themselves appropriately in order to take full advantage of the educational opportunities afforded them. One person's choice to misbehave can cause the class to lose its focus and an hour of instruction. Students must learn when to draw the line between school time and play time and delay gratification in favor of long term goals.
A student's environment contributes greatly to the way he or she behaves. If schools fail to make classrooms places where students can maximize their potential and qualify for HOPE scholarships, the result will be a loss not only to the students, but also to their parents.
Jennifer L. Arnold, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School