Stages of misbehavior descriptions, patterns, and interventions

Stage one: Calm

In this phase, students are clam, on task and goal-oriented. They follow classroom rules and expectations, respond well to praise and other forms of recognition, comply with suggestions and corrections, and take the initiative in classroom routines and academic work. This is the phase you want to draw out as much as possible, as it is the phase in which students are most teachable.

Stage Two: Trigger

In this phase, something happens that is anxiety provoking or discomforting to the student. Triggers may include conflicts with other students or adults, such as provocations or teasing, denial of a need, or the infliction of anything unpleasant on the students; changes in routine; pressure to perform or lack of the skills needed to respond appropriately to demands; making errors or being corrected; problems at home in the community including threats, abuse, or gang-related events; substance abuse; or health, nutritional, or sleep problems. Teachers sensitive to these triggers may be able to respond to students who have experience them in such a way as to avoid the explosions that they may see off. The main purpose of looking for the phases is to keep the student’s behavior from moving up the scale of seriousness. Possible interventions include Proximity; Eye Contact; Use facial Expression; Body Language; Redirection of Student or Entire Class Activity: Use a Refocusing Question but don’t put the student on the spot- embarrassment can cause humiliation provoking the student to seek revenge.

Stage Three: Agitation

In this phase which follows a trigger, a student may become agitated which may be exhibited by either an increase or decrease in behavior. Increases may demonstrate lapses in ability to stay on task and concentrate; moving in or out of groups; not able to maintain eye contact; constant motion especially of the hands; darting eyes or an apparent inability to maintain focus; or making coeval noise or using non-conversational language, such as repetition of words or phrases. Decreases in behavior may include staring into space; mumbling or other language indicating uncertainly; hands thrust into pockets or held in check under folded arms; or withdrawal from social interaction with others especially in groups. Perceptive teachers recognizes quickly that something must be done to avert the student from becoming more agitated, and to move them back toward the calm phase. Possible interventions include: Redirection; Change of Scenery; Demand the student act differently [Don’t use this if you perceive it is a Trigger]; Time out (Fixed Interval; Conditional or alternate); Hold a Class Meeting; Minor Negative Consequences; Interventions involving the Student’s Family (Call or send home a note); or a Face to Face Conference.

Stage Four: Acceleration

In this phase, the student is looking for ways to draw other people, peers or adults into a struggle. The student finds ways of inviting others to engage him/her in coercive interactions. Difficult students offer invitations that most peers and adults find difficult to turn down, and teachers often find themselves drawn into the struggles before they know what has happened. The engaging behavior may include questioning, and arguing; having the last word; non-compliance or defiance; directly challenging the teacher’s authority; compliance accompanied by inappropriate behavior so that the teacher is unlikely to be happy with the compliance; sustained off-task behavior (which the teacher does not ignore); provoking others by teasing, nasty comments, gestures, etc.; whining and crying; running away from the teacher, leaving the room or in some other way avoiding or escaping the or situation; threatening or intimidating others through verbal abuse or physical acts; or destroying property. Possible Interventions include Time Out (Fixed Interval; Conditional or Alternate); Hold a class Meeting; Major Negative Consequences; Interventions involving the student’s Family (Call or send home a note); or a Face to Face Conference; Behavioral Contract (Closed Contract- Teacher developed or Open Contract- negotiated with student); Remove the Student from Class; Suspension (ISS or OSS) or Expulsion.

Stage Five: Peak

In this phase, if the student is not diverted, he or she goes “out of control.” One may see serious property destruction, physical assault, self-injury, hyperventilation, or a tantrum of considerable severity. This phase usually does not last very long because it is physically and emotionally exhausting. Possible Interventions include let the peak behavior (tantrum) run its course; intervene only when safety is an issue; administrator intervention with the child being removed from the class followed by a Parent-Teacher-Administrator-Child Conference to develop a Behavioral Contract.

Stage Six: De-escalation

In this phase, student show signs of confusion. They may withdraw, deny that anything happened, or blame others. They may seek reconciliation or be responsive to clear directions. They don’t want to discuss what happened at this point, but may be willing to in a simple task. If the child is not removed from class, Possible Interventions include those listed in Stage Two and Three. If administrator intervention was required, then Stage Four or Five interventions should be used.

Stage Seven: Recovery

In this phase, the student may still be defensive and try to avoid discussing what happened, but he or shi is likely to be relatively subdued in interactions with others and may show an eagerness for some sort of independent work. Recovery is a period of regaining equilibrium emotionally, and getting back on track. If the child is not removed from class, Possible Interventions include those listed in Stages Two and Three. If administrator intervention was required, then Stage Four or Five interventions should be used.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes