Dealing With Confrontational Students

Teacher warning school girl
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One of the scariest issues for teachers is dealing with confrontational students in the classroom. While confrontations do not occur every day in every classroom, most if not all secondary school teachers will have to deal with a student who is acting belligerent and speaking in out in their classroom.

Do Not Lose Your Temper

This can be harder than it sounds. However, it is imperative that you remain calm. You have a classroom full of students watching you. If you lose your temper and start shouting at a confrontational student, you have given up your position of authority and lowered yourself to the student's level. Instead, take a deep breath and remember that you are the authority figure in the situation.

Do Not Raise Your Voice

This goes hand in hand with not losing your temper. Raising your voice will simply escalate the situation. Instead, a better tack is to talk quieter as the student gets louder. This will help you keep control and appear less confrontational to the student, thereby helping to calm the situation.

Do Not Get Other Students Involved

It is counterproductive to get other students involved in the confrontation. For example, if the student is making an accusation about something you did or did not say, do not turn to the rest of the class to ask them what you said right at that moment. The confrontational student might feel backed into a corner and lash out even further. A better response would be that you will be happy to speak with them about the situation once they calm down.

Privately Speak to the Student

You might consider calling a hall conference with the student. Ask them to step outside to speak with you. By removing the audience, you can talk with the student about their issues and try to come to some sort of resolution before the situation gets out of hand. Make sure that during this time, you recognize that you understand they are upset and then talk with them calmly to determine the best resolution to the problem.

Use active listening techniques as you talk with the student. If you are able to get the student to calm down and return to class, then make sure that you integrate the student back into the classroom environment. Other students will be watching how you deal with the situation and how you treat the returning student.

Call the Office For Help or an Office Escort

While it is always best to try and diffuse the situation yourself, you should call the office and request additional adult assistance if things are escalating out of hand. If a student is cussing uncontrollably at you and/or other students, throwing things, hitting others, or threatening violence, you need to get assistance from the office.

Use Referrals If Necessary

An office referral is one tool in your behavior management plan. This should be used as a last resort for students who can not be managed within the classroom environment. If you write referrals all the time, you will find that they lose their value both for your students and also for the administration as well. In other words, you want your referrals to mean something and to be acted on as necessary by the administrator in charge of the case.

Contact the Student's Parents

Try to get the parent involved as soon as possible. Let them know what happened in class and what you would like them to do to help with the situation. Realize, however, that some parents will not be as receptive as others in your efforts. Nonetheless, parental involvement can make a huge difference in many cases. 

Create a Behavior Management Plan

If you have a student who is often confrontational, you need to call together a parent-teacher conference to deal with the situation. Include administration and guidance if you feel it is necessary. Together, you can create a plan for dealing with the student and possibly help them with any possible anger management issues.

Talk With the Student at a Later Time

A day or two after the situation has been resolved, pull the student involved aside and discuss the situation with them calmly. Use this to try and determine what the trigger was that caused the problem in the first place. This is also a great time to try and give the student ideas of other ways to deal with the situation that they might be able to use in the future. For example, you might have them ask to speak with you quietly instead of shouting in the middle of class. 

Treat Each Student as an Individual

Realize that what works with one student might not work with another. For example, you might find that one student responds particularly well to humor while another might get angry when you try to make light of the situation.

Do Not Goad a Student

While this might seem obvious, it is a sad fact that some teachers enjoy goading their students. Do not be one of those teachers. Spend your time focusing on what's best for each student and move beyond any petty feelings you might have about past classroom confrontations and situations. While you might privately dislike a student, you should never allow this to show in any way.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "Dealing With Confrontational Students." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Kelly, Melissa. (2020, August 26). Dealing With Confrontational Students. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "Dealing With Confrontational Students." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).

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