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Classroom Management Strategies for Difficult Students: Promoting Change through Relationships

Dealing with difficult students can be a pain. There are times when it’s too much already that you no longer know what to do for them to just behave. Sometimes you even think if you did something that made them hate you so much.


I’ve read this paper by Mary Ellen Beaty-O’Ferrall, Alan Green, and Fred Hanna, from the website of Association for Middle-Level Education about dealing with the most challenging students. They listed down 3 strategies in the field of counseling and psychotherapy that teachers can learn and apply in their classrooms. It’s a very straightforward paper that is purposely written to help teachers. In this blog post, I would like to summarize the 3 strategies from the paper, and make it easier to understand.


  1. Building Empathy

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the simple definition of ‘Empathy’ is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

As a teacher, it is critical when developing relationships that you know and understand the student. Teachers must take the initiative and certain steps to learn and understand each student. When teachers understand and empathize with their students, it will result in the student feeling understood.

Take a personal interest in your students. Get to know them. Understand them so they know that somebody is listening to them. No child is born bad–no student behaves badly just because he or she wants to be that way. There is always a reason.


  1. Admiring Negative Attitudes and Behaviors

Research states that teachers’ actions in their classrooms have twice as much impact on student achievement in several fields. Admiring negative behavior may seem like the thing not to do, but it actually has an effect on the student that will benefit him. There’s a proper way on admiring though. You should acknowledge the negative attitude or behavior as a ‘skill’ and give credit to the student for all the years he or she has practiced the skill. For example, there is a manipulative adolescent girl. You can acknowledge her bring manipulative as the skill to ‘influence people.’ After acknowledging the skill, you will now redirect it. You can say that her skill can be valuable in certain careers such as sales and management. Now the student will be surprised to hear that there is something to admire by her behavior and that somebody understands her. There will now be a bridge of trust between the student and teacher.

All these must be done with sincerity. Any hint of sarcasm can backfire and make the student more difficult to deal with.


  1. Leaving One’s Ego at the Door

This one is pretty simple.

A teacher should not take comments and manipulations of students personally, as a clash between the student and teacher is likely to follow. He should always act strategically, not emotionally. There are patience and practice involved in improving the teacher’s skill to suspend one’s own reaction. Being aware of your vulnerabilities can be redirected it into something good.




Dealing with the most challenging of students can be difficult and requires a lot of patience. These 3 strategies can help you develop a relationship with your students and build trust between you and them. In the classroom, it is critical that teachers find ways of building relationships with all students. Relationship-driven teaching can lead to amazing things.


Top 5 Classroom Management Tips for New Teachers

For us teachers, one of the most difficult challenges we face every day is managing our classrooms–controlling the noise level, ensuring that everyone is engaged in the discussion, and every student is at an environment that stimulates learning and creativity. We try our best to make sure that no student is left behind.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about classroom management. And I would like to share with you a summary of what I have learned so far, and of course, it comes with a touch of my personal experience as a teacher. Classroom management turns out to be really simple you just got to practice these 5 things:

  1. PLAN AHEAD: Have a Plan C


Don’t make the mistake of cramming your monthly or weekly lesson plan the night before. Trust me, it will not benefit you or your students. First, you might not have the proper rest for the first day of the school week, and we all know how tiring it is to be a teacher. Second, you might rush yourself just to finish the lesson plan that you won’t be able to plan efficiently–sometimes you’ll just input the first thing that comes to mind no matter how mediocre it is. And third, you will only be able to prepare Plan A, if things don’t go as planned, there’s no backup plan for you to consult.

Effective classroom managers plan from the morning bell to dismissal. But they are not limited to just one option–they are flexible. They have a lot of backup activities if say, the video got corrupted, the projector suddenly stopped working, or the students finished 15 minutes ahead of time. They don’t panic because they have Plan B… and Plan C.


  1. MINDSET: “You are the manager of the classroom.”


On the first day of school, you should already establish the boundaries. You should have the mindset that you are the manager of your classroom. There is a fine line between being the teacher that they respect and look up to, and being a friend whom they could trust. Looking for this mix is really hard to establish. It’s hard to find the balance between being strict and being cool, but it could happen.

Some teachers are naturals. They are just class favorites. But for those who are struggling to find the balance, the technique is using a quiet but firm voice when reprimanding. This sends off the vibe that you are not someone that the class would like to gang up on. And using a quiet voice suggests that you are calm and composed, which they will parallel into someone who also respects them.


  1. HUMOR: “It’s okay!”


When you’ve established that you’re in charge of the classroom, it would be great to build relationships with your students. Smile at them, laugh at their jokes, tell a joke yourself! You don’t have to take everything seriously, it’s okay to relax sometimes. I’m not saying that you should laugh at bad behavior. Just enjoy what you do, and it will transcend to your students. Be someone that your students look up to.


  1. STRUCTURE: Reassure Them


Classroom managers always reassure their students. There should be a structure in the daily routine (schedule) and in the classroom–where certain things are placed, proper seating arrangements, and assigned responsibilities. Your students should know what to expect–that’s reassuring to them. Assigning responsibilities will give them accountability. Someone is assigned to do something, and that usually works for an efficient classroom.


  1. CONSISTENCY: Don’t break the streak!

It takes 21 days to make something a habit. It takes 1 day to break a good habit. Consistency sets if your classroom is well managed or not. You should always expect good behavior from your students, and follow through with consequences when it is not displayed. Consistency affirms who you are in the classroom, and the students will see that in no time.

consistently tired


Even if you’re a good teacher, it will not matter if you have an inefficient classroom management. It takes time, you will have your share of trial and error, to build an efficient classroom, but once you get it, it’ll be easy from then on. Those 5 tips are just my 2 cents. Feel free to comment and let me know what else can help for an effective classroom management!