While stress caused by common core concerns has dominated the recent education landscape, dealing with ‘Difficult’ Students remains the number one source of constant tension for most teachers.
Continual exposure to students who won’t behave or produce can quickly erode both confidence and well-being.
As a new school year approaches, the guidance offered by six ‘pillars’ can help you stay at the top of your game by dramatically influencing even your most challenging students to want to behave and achieve. Each pillar is explained followed by a few hands-on suggestions.
Build trust so that you can build a real, working, functional student-teacher relationship. The vast majority of teachers care deeply for and about their students. Yet by middle school, less than half of all students believe they would be missed by their teacher(s) if they didn’t come to school. Perhaps we need to be more demonstrative in showing the caring that is in our hearts.
Make it a top goal to be a cheerleader for your students, particularly those students whose actions make others want to turn away from them. Recognize them when objectionable behaviors are not happening.
Thank them for their cooperation and make time to ask how they managed to look after themselves. Create a classroom climate where students help and even “cheer” for each other.
Make the learning compelling.
A frequent complaint by students when we are teaching subject matter content is “When are we going to ever use this?” Many students fail to see the relevance between our content and their lives. When they don’t, they may become bored and uninterested. Students who have learned to value school because they see the connection between a good education and success in life can tolerate boring classrooms. Otherwise, they don’t. Motivation and discipline problems are often the result.
Make it a goal to begin each class with something that grabs their attention and then try to connect it to the lesson you are teaching: a great story; an existential question; a joke; an experiment; an interesting photo. If you cannot find a way to make the lesson relevant, at least connect with your students for a few seconds every day around something you know they find interesting .
Personalize what you emphasize. For example, cultivate responsibility on a student-by-student basis.
Children are not born responsible. It is a skill they need to learn. The best ways to promote responsibility are with involvement, ownership, and choices with
Get your students involved in making decisions about as many things as you can. Try to avoid immediately giving them your solutions or consequences and instead ask questions leading them to think on their own. Find ways to give your students choices they can handle, celebrate with them when their choices work out and hold them accountable when they make mistakes.
Build momentum. Nobody starts school expecting to fail.
Yet failure is probably the number one in-school factor that causes students to become disaffected, uninterested, unmotivated, and disruptive. Challenge your students to get better every day in your subject than they were yesterday. For example, “You got the first three correct and that is good. I am proud of you. But let’s see if you can do it two days in a row. Good luck.”
Create and modify assignments, quizzes, tests, and behavioral expectations based upon this premise.
Build an “APPP” for success. These are the keys: Appear, Prepare, Plan and Practice. Get your kids to understand that “getting better than you were yesterday” is the daily standard of success. Great teachers make it between hard and impossible for their students to fail. They convey an attitude of success: “Don’t ever expect me to give up on you and never give up on yourself.”
Praise them when they do well, with your focus being on the effort and the strategy they used. For example, “Carter, you did well because you kept at it and tried three different ways to solve the problem.”
Make sure they feel intellectually, creatively, emotionally, and physically ‘safe’
Be very clear about the details you expect your students to follow for a safe and smooth functioning classroom.
Among other things that may be specific to your subject, these should include how to enter the classroom, where to find the assignment, what to do if a pencil breaks, how to get permission for a drink or the bathroom, how to walk through the halls, line up and take turns.
It is important that these procedures be both explained and practiced. When you notice a procedure being followed well, point this out. Reinforcement always helps.
6: Help them rebuild what they consider ‘fun’
The more you enjoy doing what you do, the more students will want to be around you. Enthusiasm is contagious, so be animated when you teach and have fun with your students and the curriculum. Laugh with them!
Watching ‘difficult’ students pursue knowledge that interests them is an exciting, dynamic experience. The idea of learning being ‘fun’ may be a new concept for them. Help them grow their ‘learning is fun’ muscle while also helping them understand that there are different *kinds* of fun as well.
Of course, not every lesson is ‘fun,’ but you can even add an element of fun to a boring lesson by announcing in advance how boring the unit is likely to be!
(This article/text/quote/image is shared in good spirit to strengthen the education system.)