When we walk into our classrooms, we see the faces of the children we
are to teach. But we need to remember that these children may not be
the only ones who are supposed to be in our classrooms. There may be
others who are not included because they are not able to get to school.
Still others, who are physically there, may feel that they don’t belong
there, and may not truly “participate” in class or may misbehave.
An inclusive, learning-friendly classroom (ILFC) welcomes,
nurtures, and educates all children regardless of their gender, physical,
intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic, or other characteristics. They
may be gifted children or children with physical or learning disabilities.
They may be street or working children, children of remote or nomadic
peoples, children from linguistic, ethnic or cultural minorities, children
affected by HIV/AIDS, or children from other disadvantaged or
marginalized areas or groups. An ILFC is thus one in which the teacher
understands the value of this diversity in the classroom and takes steps
to ensure that all girls and boys come to school.
But getting all children into our classrooms is only half of the
challenge. The other half is in meeting all of their different learning
and behavioural needs so that they want to stay in our classrooms. All
classrooms are diverse in terms of the types of children we teach and
the ways that they learn. We need to consider what each child needs to
learn, how she or he learns best, and how we – as teachers – can build
positive relationships with each child so that they want to actively learn
from us. Equally important is that we need to discover how to get all of
the children to want to learn together.
Children behave and learn in different ways because of hereditary
factors, the environment in which they live, or their own personal or
psychological needs. Many times, when a child feels his or her needs are
not being met, such as the need for attention, he or she may misbehave.
Consequently, we need to understand why children behave as they do
so that we can try to prevent misbehaviour before it happens and use a
variety of different ways to guide their behaviour in a positive manner.
Classrooms can then become inclusive, welcoming, and enjoyable places
for all children to learn, and ones in which misbehaviour is rare. We can
thus spend more time teaching and learning with our students.
At first, this can be a frightening idea. Many of you may be working
in large classrooms, or even multi-grade ones, and may wonder, “How
can I use different teaching and disciplinary methods to suit individual
children when I have over 60 children in my classroom?” Actually, the
frustration that this situation causes, and our lack of skills to handle it,
may lead some of us to strike out at our students and use punishment
to try to stop misbehaviour, such as using corporal punishment or
humiliating forms of emotional punishment. In our frustration, we often
forget that children misbehave for many reasons. Some of these reasons
may be personal; others may result from the way they are being taught,
such as when they become bored with the lesson or constant lecturing;
still others come from external factors associated with the family and
community that may cause the student to be frustrated and unhappy.
Furthermore, in some cases, and particularly among new teachers, an
incident may be interpreted as a discipline problem when it is not;
for instance, when a child’s question is interpreted as challenging our
authority or knowledge, but, in fact, the child simply had difficulty
in phrasing the question properly and politely. That misidentification
– or miscall – often creates anger among students, thus causing a real
In any case, the temptation is always there to take the “quick way
out” through severe punishment to try and stop – but not necessarily
correct – the child’s misbehaviour. But fortunately, misbehaviour and the
use of punishment can be prevented when you create a well-organized
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