Putting Up with Student Attitude

student defiance

Student Attitude

If there is one thing that really gets under a teacher's skin, it is poor student attitude. Students like displaying their attitude for their classmates - particularly if they know it bugs you.

Posturing with Student Attitude 

Showing student attitude often includes behaviour like;

  1. smirks that you would love to wipe off the face with a quick backhand,
  2. pulling faces so others can see,
  3. making a sarcastic comments that verges on smart-alecness,
  4. a wide range of expression to show displeasure or frustration. 

Understanding Displays of Student Attitude

Essentially displays of student attitude is public posturing. It is seldom destructive because all students know it is also posturing. The destructive elements only occur if your over reaction moves the student attitude posturing to a power struggle.

Displays of students attitude are for the benefit of others. It is a social statement that says "I'm not happy doing what it required!"

Showing immediate compliance to a teacher receives little social kudos to other students. But, showing "attitude" does.

I wish there was an easy answer but, regretfully, there doesn't seem to be.

What You Must NEVER DO.

How the scenario plays out, like many other classroom events, is determined by how you respond to acts of student attitude. 

  • Recognise that showing student attitude is not an assault on your authority as a teacher. The student is still listening and accepts you authority to give directions.
  • Displays of student attitude do not represents bouts of defiance. The students has not refused any direction ... Yet!
  • Showing attitude does not represent a failure to learn.

Dealing with student attitude follows one simple principle. It is VERY EASY to be angry if the object of defiance (YOU) is angry as well.

It is much more difficult if the object of defiance is pleasant.


Such pleasantry also sends a message to the other 29 pairs of eyes watching your every move. You will get a big tick for professionalism and the student with attitude will find less allies amongst the other students.

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Dont Let the Little Things Turn BIG

Carry out proactive intervention when dealing with student attitude.

Redirect the student attitude before it escalates. This may stop the misbehaviours occurring at all.

Don't be hyper vigilant though as this often targets students.Look for positive interaction opportunities.

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Recreate A Respectful Response

Students with attitude really need purposeful interaction to take place.

Let your student with attitude witness positive teacher-student interaction in practice.

Be empathetic. (NOT SYMPATHETIC). Empathy shows understanding not necessarily support.

Don;t ignore this posturing. Acknowledge you understand. You may even share times when you show displeasure. But turn the discussion quickly to the task. 

Interact with your better behaved students and initiate an interaction with your troubled student. Sometimes a flow-on occurs with the positivity of the first interaction setting the tone for your interaction with your potential trouble maker.

This is a great way to manage student attitude because it reduces the friction of the interaction.

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Get Back To Learning

I have emphasised this point many times. The only reason you need better behaviour in your class is to improve the learning for all.

Students are really not interested in making your life easier.

Forget the "I'm sick of your behaviour!... I've HAD IT!" type statements. They carry no weight and make little difference in managing student defiance.

Most student doesn't care about your feelings. Bring the discussion back to learning.

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