Tips on Handling Difficult Students

Learn How to Combat Classroom Disruptions and Unwanted Behavior

Difficult student

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Teaching a lesson to your class can become quite a challenge when you have to deal with the constant disruption of a difficult student. It may seem like you have tried every behavior management tip known to man, along with trying to provide an organized routine to help the student manage their responsibilities. Inevitably, when everything you've tried fails, keep your head up and try again.

Effective teachers choose discipline techniques that will encourage positive behavior and motivate students to feel good about themselves and the decisions that they make. Use the following five tips to help you combat classroom disruptions, and deal with those difficult students.

Define Expectations

Specifically, define your expectations and help students understand there are consequences for unwanted behavior. When students break the rules they need to be ready for the consequences. Clearly write out and define each expectation you have, and post them in a visible spot in the classroom.

Common Student Expectations for the Classroom:

  • Stay seated during classroom activities and events
  • Raise your hand before speaking
  • Show respect for school property and students
  • Wait to be dismissed
  • Be prepared for class
  • Be considerate and respectful

Parent-Teacher Communication

Get parents involved in their child's education. A lot of the time the students that are being disruptive, may not be getting the attention that they need from home. By communicating your concerns with the parents, you may find there may be something going on in the household that is out of your control. Find a way to keep parents informed of their child's behavior at school.

  • Creating an open-door policy
  • Email, text or instant message
  • Weekly or monthly newsletter
  • Progress report
  • Parent conference

Once you find a way to communicate with the parents of the difficult child, next you must consider what words you will choose to say to the parents. Present the facts of the unwanted behavior, and be prepared to communicate with the parents how you plan to change the student's behavior. Knowing how you are going to deal with the parents, will help you address the needs of the child for behavior modification.

Model Expected Behavior

Set a positive tone by modeling expected and appropriate behavior. When you are dealing with a difficult student, explain to them why you don't like the behavior they are displaying, and model for them the behavior you would like to see. (Example: "I did not like that you yelled out in class without raising your hand." "The appropriate way to talk in class is to raise your hand and wait to be called upon.") By modeling the expected behavior, you are showing them exactly what you expect of them.

Children Learn From:

  • Seeing
  • Listening
  • Copying what they see
  • Actions
  • Attitudes

Reward Acceptable Behavior

Sometimes when the students that are not behaving, see the students that are behaving get rewarded for that behavior, it sets a positive example. Setting up a hands-on behavior management plan can help students physically see and track how they are behaving throughout the day. This, in turn, can make them re-think how they are behaving and get rewarded for acting appropriately.

Keep Calm, Cool and Collective

Naturally, when someone gets you upset it is common to react with frustration and anger. When this happens, it's important to remain calm. Take a deep breath, or even walk away from the situation for a moment to clear your head. Remember, this child may not have learned the tools of how to properly communicate, and now it is your job to teach them. When you stay calm in a difficult situation, it will model for the student that this is the proper way to react. Sometimes overt behavior can be contiguous and that only leads to a classroom of unwanted chaos.