Adjust Your Lens: Student Behavior is Information

Jacqueline GoodburnBlog, Engage Better, Lead Better, Manage Better

In This Post:

  • The importance of removing your personal feelings from student behavior issues.
  • Behavior is information, use it to help provide a better learning experience!
  • Ways to adjust your thinking to better meet the needs of your students and colleagues.

blonde woman wearing glasses surrounded by flowers

I had a hard day today.

Anytime that I’ve said this as an educator, the translation really should be, “My students had a hard day today and I am frustrated that I don’t feel I could do enough to help them.” As educators, our work is personal. We root for people and hope to be a part of their journey to be the best versions of themselves. When we hit a time where we don’t feel we are making the progress that we want to see, we may let our reflective nature slip and look for other places to lay blame. The best way to combat this and refocus on what we can do to give ourselves and our students the best day possible is to switch the conversation in our heads. Adjust your lens! Are your students giving you a hard time or having a hard time?

All student behavior is information. What we do with that information is what determines our path. Let’s agree that information is neutral until we label and/or react to it. Let’s practice using this information-neutral lens.

All student behavior is information. What we do with that information is what determines our path. Click To Tweet

If your mind says, “Why are you giving me such a hard time?” adjust your lens. What might be the reasons that you are having a hard time?

Taking out our feelings that a student’s behavior is directed at us personally allows the space necessary to begin identifying ways to support and move the student to a more productive activity. When we let go of feeling defensive, we can clearly view the situation and seek ways to offer strategies to our students.

If your mind says, “Why are you off-task?” adjust your lens. Do you understand the directions? Is this task too difficult or too easy for you?

It may be that the student doesn’t want to admit that they don’t have a writing utensil or a charged device to do the work. Off-task behaviors are a signal that the educator may want to lean in and seek the why behind the behavior. Simply repeating that the student should get back to work won’t be successful if we never identify the why behind what is happening.

[scroll down to keep reading]

Sounds good, but how do I maintain this throughout the year?

To find and keep the clarity that behavior is information and information is neutral until we react, you must commit to self-care. You and your students deserve to have the best chance to achieve all that is possible together. Caring about your work and taking behavior personally can be a very fine line. Feeling guilty about putting yourself high on your list? Adjust your lens! When you are at your best, you have your best chance to seek the why behind challenging behaviors.

I won’t pretend that as a classroom teacher or now as an administrator that I am always able to maintain this neutral stance, but I will promise my teachers that it is always my goal. I know that my service is to them and not my own ego or point of view.

What self-care will you commit to in order to stay at your best? You and your students will benefit from your efforts! Keep it up if you already have ways to lift yourself up, and if you don’t, seek some strategies for maintaining your positive outlook. Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed or annoyed to start-you deserve it now!


Jacqueline is currently the Director of Staff Development at Burgettstown Area School District. We are a “Small town with a Big Heart!” I earned degrees and credentials from Penn State University, Robert Morris University, and Duquesne University. I spent ten years working in social services before transitioning to education. My belief is in servant leadership, and I strive to support our teachers through professional development that offers choice in timing, topic, and delivery as well as opportunities for teacher to teacher training. In order for our teachers to shine, they must be at their best, so I also run Mindful Moments groups and other wellness activities that keep us connected. I believe that our teachers are the most important component in learning, and my role is to offer strategies and support so our students have the very best practitioners working with them.