Five ways to tackle the most challenging pupils

The Tes reports that challenging students need to be understood and re-engaged to get them on track, says this teacher.

Let’s be honest: when it happens day after day, challenging behaviour such as disobedience, backchat, anger issues or other disruption from a child can really grind us down. It can change us from being patient, compassionate people with a genuine desire to make a difference, into sleep-starved, wild-eyed desperados, convinced a student has a personal vendetta.

It can make us forget that if a student has barriers that stop them learning the way they want to, it is up to us to identify how we can help them.

So if you are struggling with a student, despite the shame culture there is in some schools (“I can’t tell anyone I’m not coping”), it’s vital to tell someone – your Sendco, head of year, head of department. Pick someone who you know will be supportive and brainstorm different ideas with them. Find a way to help that child re-engage.

Here are a few techniques that have worked with tricky kids for me over the years: –

1. Be positive and proactive
Identify the times in the day that seem tricky – first thing in the morning, after breaks, when the recording starts – and make sure you or a TA are there to chat, smile and generally talk things through in a friendly, positive way.

2. Break down tasks into achievable steps
Writing a page or even half a page about the setting of a poem, however long you’ve spent preparing for it, may seem unachievable for your troubled child. “I might as well play up as I’m not going to get that done!” It can be useful to offer breaks in the task, either via a chance to get up and move or a brief distraction of a change in pace on a different task.

3. Have a systematic behaviour management system that everyone uses
It’s a simple one but it seems not as common as it should be: teachers, TAs, catering staff – everyone in a school – should be working from the same behaviour management system. When implemented consistently, even the trickiest students tend to get the message.

Read more techniques Five ways to tackle the most challenging pupils

Do you find any of these suggestions useful? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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