Teacher's Guide to Working with Difficult Students

There is no doubt that working with difficult students is, well…difficult. The child in question may not be disruptive to other students, but seems to know just how to push your buttons. Perhaps she is the one who asks you off-the-wall questions about everything and anything, or is the one that wants to be by your side at every second of the day, and you need some space. How do you work with difficult students? Let's take a look.

Reaching Out to the Parents/Guardians

A difficult child in your class may well have been a difficult child in classes before yours. If all the child's parents ever heard were negative things that their son was doing, then it would be no wonder that parents might be hesitant to listen to you. Try approaching a difficult child's parents/guardians with understanding. Let them know that it doesn't matter what other teachers have said about him in the past. The fact is, you are his teacher now, and you want to make every effort to get to know the real student and help him succeed in your class. This may help parents/guardians open up to you, and take you for your word. But, once you have committed yourself, you must follow through.

A New Assistant for You

Sometimes students are difficult to get along with because they have been stereotyped as a troublemaker, so they are just trying to live up to something, even if it is negative behavior. Something that works for many teachers is to turn that student into an assistant who can run errands for you, such as making copies, getting supplies, etc. It is really neat to see how a once difficult student suddenly becomes a productive person in your classroom. Often a difficult student will use the same effort at being a teacher's assistant, as he did being a troublemaker. All anyone really needs is some encouragement, right?

One-on-One Talks

After the bustle of the day has ended or after children are escorted to the lunchroom, invite your difficult student to stay in the classroom a while and have a real heart-to-heart talk with him. During a heart-to-heart, make sure that your student knows that you care about him and like him very much, even if you don't like the behaviors he displays in class. It is important that the student understands that in your classroom, he is a special person and you want him to learn the things he should know. Give your student some guidelines about your expectations from him in the classroom. Giving him standards to live up to will make him want to try harder to behave. Hold him accountable for actions when he does slip or has a bad day, but always let him know that you are not giving up on him. You could possibly be the only positive influence in his life, and he needs you more than you think.

Consequences are a Must

Knowing what you have already read in this article, it may seem inappropriate to spoil it all with the thought of having consequences for a difficult child. The fact is, children learn best when they are in a structured environment. Not only do they learn best this way, but they also develop a sense of safety and security in your classroom when you set and follow through with rules and consequences. You might ask your students what they think are fair punishments for different types of bad behavior. If you agree with them, make them the law in your classroom. If you do not agree with a punishment, talk about it more before deciding on a permanent action. This way the students will know what is expected of them, and they can't say that the consequences are unfair, if they break a rule.