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Effective Classroom Management: Managing the Behavior of Difficult Students

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

This is the final part in a series focusing on successful classroom management. This article focuses on managing and changing the behavior of the most challenging students to create classroom harmony.

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    If you're a teacher you know that sometimes it only takes one student to disrupt an entire class. However, there are strategies you can use to stop the negative behavior of even the most difficult students. Try to stay patient and try out the following strategies in your classroom.

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    Behavior Contract

    Behavior contracts are documents that explicitly state expectations of behavior. There are several ways to approach the writing of a behavior contract. The teacher can write it, the student and teacher can write it together, or a meeting can be called and the parents can help with the writing. Some teachers even choose to have an administrator present. The student and teacher then sign the document.

    The signing of the contract means that the student and teacher have agreed to expectations of behavior. Clear consequences and rewards should be included so the student knows exactly what will happen if he or she chooses not to meet the expectations of the contract. Just be sure that you are willing to be consistent in meeting the conditions set forth, or you could do more harm than good.

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    Behavior Chart

    Use a behavior chart to track misbehavior and to help you come up with expectations for your behavior contract. I have found that the simpler you keep the chart, the more valuable it is. Pick three to five problem behaviors to track. I use Microsoft Excel, but you could simply use a notebook.

    Put the behavior in the left-hand column and start checking off behaviors when you see them occur. For instance, you might be looking for shouting out, head on desk, and wandering around the room. Every time you see the child engaged in the negative behavior, check it off. By the end of the day or week, you will have a pretty good idea what to include in your contract and your chart can serve as proof of the child’s negative behavior should you need the information in a conference in the future.

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    Avoid Confrontation

    Never get into any type of confrontation with a student. If you feel that you absolutely must argue with a student, never argue in front of an audience. You will lose every time. Then, not only have you lost the respect of that one problem student, you have lost the respect of every student who watched the exchange.

    Remember that you are the adult and the professional and avoid confrontation at all cost. If the student seems to want an argument, offer to set up a time for the two of you to meet with the guidance counselor to discuss whatever problem the student is having. If this doesn’t work and the behavior persists, send the student to another classroom to calm down.

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    Get Them On Your Side

    This is probably the most basic, and most difficult, step a teacher can take to control the behavior of a challenging student. If you can get the student on your side, you’ve pretty much won the battle. But, just how do you get them on your side? Talk to them. Find out their favorite music and television shows. Watch them in the hallway and see who their friends are. Then talk to them about the things that matter.

    The toughest kids are sometimes just the loneliest kids. Once they find out you care about them and you’re not out to get them, they will start to trust and possibly even like you. Kids that like their teachers rarely cause them problems and may even stand up for them to their peers. I have had this happen more than once in my classroom.

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    Solving the Problem

    Used together, these four strategies can work wonders for the most challenging of students. You may find that you only need to use one or two and the problem behaviors begin to diminish.

    Post a comment and let us know what has worked for you.