Teachers May Be Swayed by Child's Reputation

Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Students' reputations, not just their actions, play a role in whether they're judged to be well-behaved at school, say British researchers who studied four classrooms with children aged 4 to 5.

They found that some children have a difficult time being seen as good after they've acquired a poor reputation among teachers and other school staff, classmates and parents. The Manchester Metropolitan University researchers also determined that when children start school, they have to develop skills to interpret and deal with mixed messages about how to behave.

Two general types of classroom behavior cause particular concern: physical actions, such as punching and kicking; and repeated failure to comply with adults' requests. Conduct likely to cause concern among teachers and other school staff include repeatedly calling out or not sitting properly in class, being noisy in line-ups and failing to listen, the researchers noted.

But such misbehavior doesn't always cause a child to acquire a bad reputation. This is more likely to happen when teachers or others see poor behavior as a sign of a larger issue, perhaps stemming from the home environment.

For example, parents who are considered to be neglectful, indulgent, anxious, uncooperative or interfering contribute to a teacher's view of a child's behavior as a problem, according to the report.

"Once children's reputations have started to circulate in the staffroom, dining hall and among parents, their behavior easily becomes interpreted as a sign of particular character traits," study co-author Maggie MacLure said in a news release from the U.K. Economic & Social Research Council, which funded the study.

Once a child is stuck with a bad reputation, it becomes very difficult for that child to be recognized as good, the researchers said.

SOURCE: U.K. Economic & Social Research Council, news release, Sept. 20, 2009

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