Some students will stop at nothing to get attention in class. Banging on the desk, making burping sounds, making inappropriate comments – we have all experienced these tedious behaviors that stop the learning and wear down even the most dedicated and experienced teacher.
Over time, most learn more appropriate ways of drawing the teacher’s attention. The distracting behavior subsides. However, there some for whom attention-seeking behaviors are a comfort zone. They continue to yell, throw things, and otherwise highjack the classroom while the helpless teacher is frustrated and out of patience.
In these cases, ignoring seems logical – we’ve been taught when a student wants attention and we give it to them, we might be reinforcing the behavior. But it is not that simple. When a student a student seeks attention in disruptive ways, it may be due to underlying distress or uncomfortable feelings, such as anxiety. Ignoring the behavior can increase anxiety or discomfort and subsequently increase the student’s behavior.
Ignoring can accidentally reinforce less safe behavior