5 Ways to Work with and Win Over Difficult Students

5 Ways to Work with and Win Over Difficult Students

Winning over difficult or challenging students isn’t always easy, but it’s happening every day in schools all over the world. It usually takes time and requires patience to work with kids who may be resistant to positive changes in their lives.

Here are some ideas that can help you engage challenging students and work with them to reveal their true potential. You can do this!

1. Engage Them Every Day in a Positive Way

If you can’t greet them at the door, make sure you have some positive exchange early in the class or day that lets them know you care about him or her. Get to a point where you can give a fist bump or a high five. The goal here is to build a positive connection. Don’t let a day go by that you don’t have some type of positive contact with the student. This is how you start to build a relationship.

2. Be Consistent with the Student

You must let the child know clearly what your expectations are. You cannot accept one type of behavior one day and accept the opposite the next day. Challenging students are quick to notice inconsistencies and rarely hesitate to point them out. By being consistent, you’re giving the student a roadmap to succeed with you. Students need consistency in their lives and your class may be one of the few places they experience it.

3. Be “Real”

Many challenging students are streetwise. They expect and need for you to tell them like it is. If the child is not living up to your high expectations, point it out clearly, but with kindness. If a person can do better, tell the person that you know that they can do better and tell them why you believe so.

Don’t try to sugarcoat things with challenging students. Many appreciate honesty and want to hear it straight. Be honest, but also be loving and caring at the same time. Don’t make excuses for them and don’t let them make excuses to you. If their work is not up to standard, say things like, “This is not the best you can do! I know you can do better. Now, go back and try again. You got this!”

4. Defend the Student

When an opportunity presents itself, such as another classmate saying or doing something derogatory or inappropriate to the challenging student, be the first one to jump to their defense. Let the child know that you are also their advocate. Let the student see, in front of the class, that the student is just as important to you as everyone else. This demonstrates to the child that you are for them and not against them. 

5. When You Are Upset, Be Positive with the Student

Many students think that teachers say what they really mean when they are upset. Therefore, model the way you want the student to act. Buddha wrote, “Be that which you expect of others”. When the student gets you upset, try to stay very calm. Speak in calm, measured tones and try to be your best self. Let the student know that you expect better of them than the way they are currently acting. This is how you want the student to act when the student gets upset with you or someone else.

My friend, you can do this. Take your time and consider it an exciting adventure you’re embarking upon—what could be more exciting than changing a child’s life for the better? It’s absolutely worth it to put in the effort and energy up front as soon as you recognize challenging behaviors, rather than dealing with distracting behavior all year. Students want guidelines. Go for it. You got this!