Difficult students are well KNOWN.
These turkeys are usually the topic of conversation in the staff room.
But how can you manage them?
Most classroom teachers try to warn off relief teachers. Ratbag kids are always mentioned in behaviour management dispatches.
I am sure sometimes relief teachers can feel the "Dead Man Walking" gaze when moving the direction of classroom.
When it comes to difficult students, their reputation precedes them. The fact is that these kids often play merry hell with most relief teachers.
If they are really tough, the regular teacher might be absent more than most. Behaviour management strategies are taxing on most teachers. Plenty of work for you right?
These kids know. They might be boofheads but they know they have a bull’s-eye on their back.
They know full well they have been labelled by their teachers - and I bet they even know that other teachers have warned you off.
The problem is, like most caged animals, when difficult students feel trapped by some classroom management strategies, they strike out, ensuring the prophecy is fulfilled.
So, what are the best classroom management strategies for relief teachers to manage these students?
How can you point this recalcitrant student in the right direction?
For a start, let me just say, dealing with difficult kids is, well .... difficult. And sometimes, nothing works.
The point is that teachers manage behaviour. Teachers do not discipline kids. Discipline comes with a value system and that comes from home and/or the community (or not).
I have seen too many good teachers upset by their inability to manage difficult students. And while teachers do a damn good job with the raw material with which they are handed, teachers do not own discipline failures.
So, here is a couple of classroom management strategies that have worked for me.
I know, what you are thinking. Are you flipping NUTS! What I mean is you know they are problem children. They know you know. But operate on the premise that they will behave as all class members will - at the start at least!
Many relief teachers keep their little toads in the front, near the teacher. The problem with this arrangement is that they have the eyes of the whole class pointed towards them. You know the kids who need a leader to misbehave. Well, they now have them. This little turkey down the front can perform for the class. When relief teaching, I move them discretely out of view. The far left corner of the classroom where their performance will be seen be only a few.
Kids are pretty astute. Your extra attention and frequent check-ins communicate loud and clear that you’ve got your eye on them. This often plays into their hands because they have shown the class how good they are at being difficult.
Make sure your classroom management procedures start and finish with courtesy and respect. Snarl at your turkeys from the inside. Show the whole class that you undertake behaviour management like a professional. This will give you a big thumbs up from the kids who make a difference - the good kids.
By way of warning, it’s a common tactic to let difficult students know—in no uncertain terms—that you’re aware of their previous behavior problems. But this undermines your ability to build rapport. It puts you at odds and in competition, and makes them want to push your buttons, get under your skin, and misbehave behind your back.
Another of the classroom management strategies used often is to ignore less serious, less disruptive behaviour of difficult students. Misbehavior, silliness, and distraction then become their mantra to which they identify and are identified. I think relief teachers fear the drama that behaviour management can sometimes generate. I can totally understand this. Behaviour management is dramatic and some behaviour management strategies can be very invasive.
When you employ classroom management strategies that treat difficult students differently than their classmates you’re telling them that they’re incapable of behaving like a successful student. You might be nodding your head right now, because it seems they are. But I have never known any kid refuse a teacher who genuinely cares about them.
Most difficult students work on the premise that you expect them to misbehave, their class mates expect them to misbehave and they enter the class with the expectation that they will misbehave. It doesn't take Einstein to follow the sequence of events here. Close your request. You can close off a request by prefacing your statement with an expectation of compliance. Such statements like “Thank you for closing the windows for me, Paul”. Few students are likely to refuse a request phrased in such a way.
Some behaviour management strategies just don't work even when, in theory, you do everything by the book.