Every Student Has a Story


As a new teacher, it is so easy to get all-consumed with the teaching.

Yet, it is important to remember that we are teaching students … we are teaching children.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Pink Sherbet Photography


Some of my students, my “little characters”, are not easy to teach.

Some make me laugh, some make me cry. Yet, I enjoy working with, and teaching every one of them.

 

I believe in building bridges with my most alienated, challenging students. I invest significant time and effort in building trust and mutual respect. I try to find that connection, that one little thing we have in common … and I’ve learnt “that from little things, big things grow”.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m preoccupied with my own teaching and learning, but today I received a powerful reminder about the foundation of my teaching practice.

A student told me her story.

It wasn’t an easy story to tell, and not an easy story to listen to. Yet, it was a first step, a little breakthrough …  from which, I believe we can move forward.

Every student, every child has a story …

But as teachers, do we take the time to listen?

Reflections on Classroom Management (Index)

My Experiences, Philosophy, & Reflections

  1. My Jigsaw Approach to Classroom Management
  2. The Conscious Competence Ladder (Skill Development)
  3. The Four Stages in My Teaching Practice
  4. Classroom Management – Summing Up

The 3 R’s of Effective Learning Environments

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. Overview of the 3 R’s
  3. Transforming a Year 3 class into a learning community
  4. The Third ‘R’ – Shared Responsibility for the Learning Process
  5. My experiences with the Third ‘R’

‘The Theory of Bumps’ (Bennett & Smilanich, 1994)

  1. The Key Principles
  2. Explanation & Suggested Strategies

The 3 Keys to Working with Challenging Students

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a “problem” or challenging behaviour?
  3. Part 1: Building Positive Relationships
  4. Part 2: The Classroom Learning Environment
  5. Part 3: The Teacher’s Attitude, Actions, & Management Approach
  6. Responding to Anger

Building Positive Relationships

  1. Small Talk: “From little things, big things grow”
  2. Relief Teaching – Chalk & Small Talk!
  3. Get Involved with Breakfast / Lunchtime Clubs
  4. The Importance of Active Listening

Top Tips for Teachers – Behaviour Management (Video)

Cracking the Hard Class

The Importance of Active Listening

To build positive relationships with your challenging students, teachers need to demonstrate an active interest in their lives, really listening to their thoughts, opinions, interests and silences.

You may only spend a few minutes talking to a student, but actively listening to them for those few minutes helps to build trust and mutual respect. The cup of coffee can wait. This is important.

Rob Plevin, in Magic Classroom Management, describes active listening as

“an effective way of showing that you value a person’s opinion.

We demonstrate we are listening by making eye contact, stopping other activities so that we concentrate fully on what is being said and respond to what is being said with nods, gestures and verbal cues.” (p.48) 

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As teachers, we are important figures in our students’ lives, and the attitude we express towards them through our incidental conversations can have significant, often invisible impacts on their attitude, learning and personal development. By actively listening to our students, we treat and value them as people, not as insignificant “little brats”.

Never forget that challenging students are still children, and deserve to be respected and valued as such. It is easy to fall into the trap of reacting to the behaviours after they occur. Actually working to identify and counteract is difficult, but rewarding in the long run. Actively listening to your students is a simple first step.  

The Final Word on Relationships

For more information and advice on developing teacher-student relationships, I highly recommend the Stepping Stones to Positive Relationships series on the Behaviour Needs blog.

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I’ll also leave this topic on a note of caution, bearing in mind my initial naivety and inexperience as a beginning teacher. As teachers, it is important that we ensure our relationship-building efforts and teacher-student interactions are entirely proper and professional, and not liable to misconstrued or misinterpreted.

It is important to understand the relevant school policies and procedures, bearing in mind your legal responsibilities and duty of care. If you consider yourself uninformed, I’d suggest you talk to Admin, or contact your Union. I’ll certainly be doing so shortly.

Challenging Students: Dealing with Student Anger, Defiance, Aggression, and Violence

As a relief teacher, I meet and work with challenging students on a regular basis; and it is fair to say that my 2008 school experience and 2009 relief teaching experience in a TRIBES school have defined my attitude and management approach towards these students.

My experiences, observations, and professional learning in these schools underpin my ongoing efforts as a relief teacher to win-over and build effective relationships with my most challenging students. They have also contributed to some of my major success stories working with students that some dread to teach.

Common Characteristics of Challenging Students

  • Their behaviour disrupts the learning process, verbally or physically harms others, frustrates their teachers, and often results in office withdrawal or school suspension. 
  • They are usually male, ranging in age from 7-12 years old (K-7). I have also worked with some challenging female students, but they are usually found in upper primary. 
  • They can be socially-isolated, or associate themselves with students with similar background experiences. 
  • Their behaviour is directly linked to the emotional / social baggage they bring to school, and is motivated and purposeful.
  • They generally can’t cope with changes in classroom routines, and are more likely to negatively respond to relief teachers. 
  • The attitude and management approach of the classroom teacher, and school staff, are CRITICAL to a successful intervention with a challenging students

 The Three Keys to Working with Challenging Students

  1. Focus on Building Positive Relationships
  2. Focus on the Classroom Learning Environment
  3. Focus on the Teacher’s Attitude, Professional Knowledge, and Management Approach

I will be discussing these “Three Keys” in the context of Rod Plevin’s (2009) eBook: MAGIC Classroom Management: How to get the most from the worst kids in school (www.classroom-management.org), as his approach mirrors the lessons I have learnt over the past few years.

Dealing with Challenging Behaviour (Belize Teacher Training)