George Lucas Educational Foundation

Difficult Students

Difficult Students

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What do you do about students who constantly disrupt your classroom and nothing you seem to do works? I had a student my first year teaching that would take off out the door and down the hall whenever I turned my back. Trips to the principal’s office did not result in any help because he would just do it again whenever you arrived back in my room. We tried behavior charts, which also did not help. I would also have to watch this child all the time because if I did not he would hit, kick or bite another student. His parents were mad at the school for not being able to control him. The only reason I survived the school year was because the family moved after the first six weeks.

I am wondering what others would have done in this situation and also if others have been in situations like this. What works with your difficult students and what seems to just increase the problem?

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Kirsten Tompson's picture

Wow! It sounds like you did absolutely everything possible to help this student. I have been in situations before where the parents are blaming you and it feels like you are doing something wrong. I teach a self-contained special education class that I think this little guy probably would benefit from. It sounds like he is a child where there is need for intensive behavior management and parental support. Unfortunately, it is clear that you weren't going to get the support needed from the parents to help this student.

I have been there many times. Most of the parents I work with had bad or even traumatic experiences in school. It seems that those parents are the ones who dont want to come to meetings, take phone calls, or be supportive in anyway. It also seems like those are my most intense students.

Thank you for your inquiry because it is good to know that others are going through the same stressful issues. It almost makes it difficult to go to work sometimes.'s picture

I think you did everything you could do also. This situation should have been handled by the administration. The student in question was a danger to himself and other students.He should have been evaluated by a psychiatrist. Before any problem can be handled, a diagnosis has to be determined. I would have taken him to the office on a regular basis whenever the behavior was out of control.
Sometimes nothing works to combat severe behavior problems.You needed help fom a person trained in managing behavior problems.

Jamal Reynolds's picture

I agree, you did everything possible. I also teach a lot of students who have behavior problems. I've found that if I have activities that students find fun and meaningful, it'll keep them engaged in learning and it'll take their minds off doing negative actions. Also, does your school have mentoring programs for young men like that? I hope this helps you. Good luck in the future!!

michael zain's picture

I so understand what your going through. It is not easy I have had many years where students would run out of the classroom, to pout and kick the floor and even hide undertables and my desk. THe list goes on and on. I still wonder how I managed. After all these years I try to ignore negative behavior but at the same time I have a strong belief that you need to acknowledge that something is wrong and communmicate to the student in a way that they will begin to trust you and gain respect. I don't think it will work 100% but I do beleive that you will reach some of them.

Sara's picture

It can be so frustrating when it seems like you are trying to do everything you can to help a child with their behavior. Do you have an intervention team? Maybe the child was severely emotionally disturbed. It's really hard sometimes because our job is to teach, but when you have an unruly child that has such a behavior problem it makes it difficult for the rest of the class to learn.

N. McDavid's picture

Wow! When I read your post I pictured myself holding a mirror telling my story. I am a first year teacher and I have a student in my class who fits your description. I actually talked to the student previous year teacher and discovered that the student came from a household of molestation, drugs and alcohol. I have tried to reach out to the student through mentoring; however, behavior is still an issue. The student sometimes come in and completely shut down. I try to regain her focus but 9 out of 10 times I am unsuccessful. This is a work in progress, but it is one that I refuse to give up!

Sarah F's picture

I have a difficult student, who is labeled "emotional behavior disorder (EBD)." I have difficult students in my class, but this child is the only one who I struggle getting through to. He came later in the school year, and I conferenced with my class about not trying to engage him in confrontation. Fortunately, my class hasn't (for the most part), but I do still find him combative. The best thing I find myself being able to do is not engaging him, period. I know he wants a reaction, and I have to fight myself not to give him one. I am a newer teacher (second year), but I know that the reaction is what he wants, and I refuse to give into that.

I also agree with the comment about having interactive/engaging lessons when he is in my room. I try to make my lessons fun, anyway, but I find the more fun they are, the less altercations occur!

Juli's picture

I appreciate the question you brought up about how to deal with difficult students. It sounds as if you had an extreme case with a difficult student. It does sound like you definitely tried many things to help him be successful in the six weeks he spent in your classroom. I hope that administration was supportive of your efforts in the face of his angry parents. I agree that with some students, behavior makes them unsafe to be in the classroom, and therefore they should be removed when choosing those behaviors. The fact that you are still asking this question is proof that you have done much reflection and are still trying to remedy the situation for a possible next time. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Katrina Sneed's picture
Katrina Sneed
Once upon a teacher, now stays at home

Thank you for all the words of encouragement and for the confirmation that I did indeed do the right thing. I have often asked myself if I could have done anything differently. The administration was not helpful at my school and basically told me to deal with it. They were supportive in dealing with the parents in letting them know they were not to blame their sons behavior on me. I had several talks with my students at the time about what we could do to make the situation better and how inappropriate this student's behavior was. They were supportive in trying to engage him in appropriate actions and behaviors and I was fine to teach then as long as I had the door blocked off. I would often have to leave my classroom of 18 students to chase this one student down the hall before he reached the door to outside.

It is also encouraging to know I am not the only one with such severe behavior problems. My school did not have any type of intervention team set up and did not know how to handle this situation. In your schools what members of faculty and others are involved in an intervention team?

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