Tips to Deal with Difficult Students to Improve Classroom Management

Misty Hance
Misty Hance
Assistant School Principal; Ed.D. in School Leadership, Carson-Newman University, TN
Teacher trying to stop two students from arguing

Even the most organized, prepared, and highly regarded teachers can be unequipped for the difficult behaviors that students exhibit in the classroom each school year. The tough students in classrooms can greatly affect the learning environment, making it hard for the teacher to teach and the students to learn. Unfortunately, these students are becoming more and more prevalent in classrooms. Here are five key tips that can improve the discipline in anyone’s classroom, starting today.

Develop a Relationship

The first, and arguably the most important, tip for dealing with difficult students is developing a relationship with them. Relationships with students provide the foundation for trust, something that is critical if progress is going to be made in correcting the unacceptable behaviors. Teachers can start by opening up about themselves and letting the student get to know them as a whole person, instead of just as their teacher. They can then tie student interests into their lessons to make learning more fun. Students who like their teacher and have a relationship with them are much more likely to work hard in the classroom.

Expectations and Accountability

The second tip for dealing with difficult students is to present clear expectations and hold students accountable. A student needs to know what their limits are and what happens when they step outside that line. If a teacher does not remain consistent, the student won’t understand when certain behavior is acceptable and when there will be consequences. This is confusing for both the teacher and student. It also sets an example for others and can make it harder on the teacher to hold high expectations for all students.

Be Consistent

A third tip that goes along with holding clear and true expectations is being consistent. Not only does this apply to giving out consequences, but also for daily routines. Even the most easy going students benefit from knowing what the daily schedule is. Informing students of changes ahead of time so they can mentally prepare and ask questions helps the students know what to expect; whereas surprises can make students anxious or hyper.

Home-to-School Communication

The fourth tip for dealing with difficult students is having a strong line of communication between home and school. Regardless of what the parent chooses to do with the knowledge of their child’s day-to-day goings, it is necessary for the student to know that their parents are aware of what happens outside the home. Oftentimes parents can provide some insight into the triggers of behavior or be helpful in brainstorming possible ideas for intervention.

Peer Support

Lastly, and equally as important as the previous tips, is having peer support. Not only do peers help with problem solving on possible solutions to behavioral problems, but they are vital for the teacher of a difficult student to feel like they have support. Teachers need to know that other teammates have encountered similar behaviors; they need to be able to lean on each other on difficult days; and they need to have a place to share success stories. This companionship can motivate a teacher even on the most difficult of days.

Every new school year brings new students with a broad spectrum of behavioral needs. These needs can greatly affect the learning environment for teachers and for the rest of the class. By following the above mentioned tips, difficult behaviors can be addressed, supported, and improved upon.

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