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How to Solve the Biggest Problems of Difficult Students

Type: All  |  Category: Teaching  |  Date: 1st September 2017


Throughout your career, most teachers are bound to come across students that they find challenging or disruptive to the rest of the class, or even sometimes just difficult when working in group projects, for example creating a Leavers’ Books yearbook with fellow students (and teachers). In light of this, we wanted to offer our advice to teachers for dealing with troublesome students as a whole.

”How to deal with difficult students in your classroom

There will always be a difficult person, or rather a conflict of interest in the classroom or when creating a yearbook within a team. It’s natural, and it’s understandable. It’s how you address the situation, and handle it, is what defines you as a teacher, or leader, and calls to action how you will be perceived by others. Would you rather be respected and on the same level, or feared and alienated?

In some circumstances, for examples when working on a Leavers’ Books yearbook within a group, you may feel there is no difficulties and no conflict; always take a moment to reassess the group and how they are acting – if you are taking a strong lead, the difficult person could indeed be yourself.

What Kinds of Behaviour Do We Find Difficult?

Taken from How to be Assertive in Any Situation by Sue Hadfield and Gill Hasson:

  • Stubbornness
  • Selfishness
  • Needy people
  • Sulkers
  • Negative people
  • Unassertive people

The behaviour of people we see as difficult can be erratic and sometimes bizarre. They may not be difficult all the time, which can be confusing and mat lead you to try to ignore the bad behaviour when it happens.

Why are some people difficult?

People display the behaviours above because it works for them. They have learned over time that by behaving in this way they can get what they want.

Remember: you can’t change the behaviour of someone else – but you can change yourself and your reaction to their behaviour.

Key Points for Dealing with Difficult Team Members

Here we have some advice for teachers and students alike. Always appreciate other people’s opinions and listen to design ideas within your group. So if you’re confronted with a difficult person, remember that if you can’t change them, you can at least change how you react and perceive them.

Pause for a moment and breathe. Sometimes, just taking a moment to think will be enough to avoid saying something that will only make the situation worse. If a person is being confrontational, you must choose your words carefully, so always remain calm and patient. Never rush.

Regardless, listen to what they are saying and their ideas. Question why they believe that idea will work better to understand their reasoning. Not only will that build trust and relax the atmosphere, but you will learn about the person and their ideas – which in turn could help brighten up your own, or a collaborative effort could be made.

When it comes to creating your yearbook, a real time saver and a stress reducer would be printing off some flat plans so you can arrange where bits of the book go. People can also work on separate sections, or put forward their design for a certain page so you can compare.

If all else fails, remember to talk. Talk to your superiors. Talk to others around you. You should never be afraid to speak up or speak about anything. If you do not have the answer, someone else will.

Our Advice for a Stress-Free Yearbook

Some teachers may think that creating a yearbook for their students is a lot of work, and with their already manic timetable they believe they won't have time. Leavers’ Books ensure that this is not the case. The end-of-year is a time to be celebrated and our aim is to make the experience fun and enjoyable throughout; and as stress-free as possible.

  • A top tip, which is incredibly simple, is to start your project early. The earlier you start, the easier it is; like any task we believe little and often is the best way to work. You will have more time to think of ideas, and work on them, and also you’ll never have to rush.
  • Get the students involved by incorporating Leavers’ Books within your lessons. Students can login to your yearbook creator and type-up their profiles, leaving one less job for you. Don't panic, we have designed this feature to ensure students cannot access or edit your hard work – just to upload content that you want. Afterwards, you can go through their work and edit anything.
  • Remember to add photos throughout the year. You can now upload and store photographs to your online account at any time, saving them securely to different galleries. Uploading your photos after an event means when you finally sit down to start work on your pages, tracking down the pictures from trips six months prior won’t be a problem.
  • Keep a back-up copy of everything on file – save the photos to an external or portable drive, and capture all text in a Word document.

Key Tips for Dealing with Challenging Students

In general, we feel this is quickly worth addressing as a whole. Teachers should never feel belittled by their abilities when problems with children arise. Here, we run though some points and advice to help you deal with challenging students:

Reach out to the parents, and become friends. Constant contact with the parents is key. They will always want the best for their child, and put them at the fore-front of any decision, so by working closely with the parents, you can update them on current issues and what the other can do in order to help. Alongside this, you may be able to decipher where the bad attitude is coming from as a way of relating to the child or vanquishing it. Parents also require to feel safe, confident that they will not be attacked or blamed.

Pay attention to the less structured times of the day, for example breaks and lunch time can be problematic, but also more lax classes such as art, music or PE. Ignoring misbehaviour will not make it go away, and could encourage others.

Never argue, and don’t lecture, scold, or yell. These actions could have a ripple down effect, and could cause the majority of students to see you in a different light. Creating any kind of tension or friction between yourself and challenging students usually sees behaviour worsen – your aim is to not create a divide. Set a positive tone throughout.

Set goals for students, and if achieved, see they have a reward. For example, becoming the ‘teacher’s assistant’ for the day where they aid you in little tasks will not only feel rewarding for them, but their tasks will also benefit the class and to do ‘good’. On the other side to this, when something goes wrong, insist that students accept responsibility for their behaviour.

Never hold a grudge, and start each day fresh. Years of teaching experience have taught us that no child is bad, and it’s about finding ‘their’ good. Know that also, parents need and deserve to hear positive things about the children no matter what.

Finally, make certain that they understand you like them very much still. Even though you might not always like their behaviour, makes certain that they understand you like them as a person. Hey, we all make mistakes. We’re all human.

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