George Lucas Educational Foundation
Classroom Management

3 Ways to Earn the Trust of Troublesome Students

May 2, 2017 Updated April 29, 2017

If you teach in an urban, underfunded school district, chances are you were assigned to an overcrowded class of underperforming students. You may encounter incidents where a student sits in the classroom and refuses to participate in the classroom discussion. And when you inquire into the causes of their behavior, their typical responses may include: “I don’t know why I am in this class. You won’t understand me.” Such an atmosphere may for sure force you to question why you chose to teach in the first place. But there is hope.

Technology and human knowledge have grown to the extent that people with diverse backgrounds can increasingly interconnect for better relationships. As a professional, you can forge new relationships with these troubled students turning them into world-class performers. The following techniques may help you in that endeavor.

1. Some disadvantaged students live with extended family members who may not see value in education and therefore toss students between work and school. Rather than helping them with their homework, the host family forces these kids to do household labor and errands. So, these kids report back to school with their homework undone. The magic here is to get to know their names and stories. With time they will start opening up and tell you what is going on in their lives. Don’t be overtaken by their excessive need, though. Exercise a clear-cut boundary but remain the go-to person. They will stay around you and the school library, all the while getting more time for studies. And that is your goal.

2. One counselor I know kept dozens of toothbrushes and vaselines in her cubicle office. Every morning, she toured classrooms for 30 minutes observing awkward-looking behaviors with students. Whenever she saw students who looked like they had missed the shower, she took them with her to the office for a quick remedy. She built relationships with students until they poured to her way for help. No longer does she need the 30-minute tour; students in-need come early and stop by her office.

3. Your goal is for them to do a competent study so they succeed in the exam. Once you get to know them and their problems, their defenses will be lowered, and they will take your advice outright. In fact, they will surprise you with their creativity.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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