A reflective essay is used to share an author's feelings on a topic or theme. Reflective essays are generally written in the first person, and express feelings and ideas rather than criticism and argumentation. Reflective essays may be assigned to students who have engaged in negative or antisocial behaviour. This is not because writing essays is a punishment or chore; rather, it is because writing reflective essays can get students to think seriously about subjects they would not normally think about.
Often, negative behaviour occurs as a result of a failure to empathise with others. Students who act in a negative way frequently fail to consider the effects their actions could have on their friends and classmates, as is often the case with bullies. Other times, students who have a generally negative disposition fail to consider that others can empathise with them and feel brought down, as can be the case with students who display a negative attitude toward school. The topic of empathy would be given to a student as a question, as in "why is it important to consider other peoples' feelings?"
Many students who engage in negative behaviour fail to consider the consequences to themselves. Aggressively negative behaviour, such as bullying and theft, can result in punishment up to and including criminal charges, while passively negative behaviour, such as refusal to cooperate or refusal to communicate, can result in a student not developing normal friendships and relationships. A good essay topic on personal consequences would ask the student to consider whether he would gain anything by repeating the negative behaviour.
Negative behaviour often has consequences for a student's classmates as well for the student. A student who bullies another student will not only harm his peer and get himself in trouble, he could also encourage other students to engage in similar behaviour. Anti-social behaviour has a negative effect on group cohesion, and disrupts the learning environment. A good essay topic on group consequences of negative behaviour would ask a question such as "how would the class function if everyone pushed other students down the stairs?"
Some types of negative behaviour have social consequences reaching outside the classroom. Theft and vandalism are two examples of this kind of behaviour. These types of extreme negative behaviours could land a student in trouble with the law, and could become a drain on society if practised pathologically. A good topic on social consequences would ask how society is affected by the behaviour in question.
A lighter topic on negative behaviour relates to the future. While negative behaviour is something that should be dealt with, there is no need to be discouraging with a student who has acted out. Instead, you could suggest new ways for the student to handle situations in the future. If a normally well-behaved student has participated in one oppositional or antisocial act, it might be advisable to assign her a question about why such behaviour would put their future in jeopardy. One example would be, "how would your future turn out if you got caught stealing again?"
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