Kate Hardiman - Psychologist
Establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with students whose behaviour challenges both teachers and other students is a core strategy for the classroom management toolbox.
Here are three top tips for getting along with student’s whose behaviour is difficult to manage.
Create kindness and empathy
Begin each day with the assumption that this student is doing the best they can in any situation. Consider their red zone behaviours as unskilful attempts to have their needs met. Questions that may be helpful to ask yourself include; how come they learnt to behave this way? And, what context might have shaped the way this student sees the world?
Keep in mind that like you this student has hopes and dreams. Like you they have fears and worries. Like you they have people they care about and people who care for them. Like you they wish they could be the best version of themselves.
Tune in and be attentive
Get curious about who this person is and who they might like to become. Find out their likes and dislikes by asking the student questions, and then ask again. Look interested and adopt a friendly posture. If they respond with ‘dunno’ or nothing at all, it’s possible they really don’t know. Take this uncertainty as an opportunity to connect and find out the answer together. Keep it fun by using a friendly or playful tone of voice.
Model how to manage feelings
If you notice the student’s behaviour is escalating towards the red zone, model how you would like the student to regulate their emotions. Stop, take a breathe, and observe what’s happening inside and outside. Then proceed with greater flexibility in how you choose to respond.
Relationships can be repaired - if you are willing. The power of coming back to a distrustful student and taking ownership for your own behaviour by saying, ‘sorry I made the wrong call there, let’s try again,’ will have an impact on the student (even if they don’t show it straight away). Next time they make an unskillful action, listen to see if they make the same offer and be ready to receive it.