Friday, April 28, 2017

Teaching - ULTIMATE practice of forgiveness.

Be honest. How many of us have that 1 student that we hope and pray will be out sick for one day just to give us break? And that student is NEVER absent. And when we see that student comes barreling through the door, what do we do?  Take a deep breath, pray for patience, and hope for the best. However, hoping for the best is not always the best strategy.  We have seen the power of positive feedback and positive reinforcement (  But how do we go from surviving the difficult student to creating a thriving situation?  

Grace Dearborn, author of “Reaching and Teaching All Students Requires an Understanding of Them inside and Out,” states that “most of us routinely invest huge amounts of energy into our most challenging students, more than is healthy or sustainable” (2015). I can attest that some of my more difficult students have kept me up at night wondering what I can do to make the situation better. However, staying up at night doesn’t help anything, if anything it makes it worse. Tired teacher + challenging student = bad situation for everyone.   

However, there are many strategies to work with challenging students, not just deal with them. When I googled “challenging students,” I got a wealth of knowledge.  However, not a lot was useful.  I don’t want “25 strategies for challenging students” because that sounds too overwhelming and not workable in the moment.  I don’t know about you, but I need something that will work in the moment - not 25 steps later.  

Michael Linsin, author of "The 7 Rules Of Handling Difficult Students,” states that “It’s your relationship with your students that makes the greatest difference” (2014).  I find this to be very true. When I take time to learn about a student, then I can appreciate the positive qualities about him/her. I don’t mean that I excuse his/her behavior or give false praise.  I mean appreciate who they are as a person, not just a student.  For example, I had a really difficult student - disrespectful, refusal to work, and basically did not want anything to do with school.  However, I found out this student trains rescue dogs, and my daughter is a dog trainer.  Every day that, I would ask about the dogs, how it was going, have her share pictures, etc.  Did all of our problems disappear?  No.  But did they decrease, yes because I appreciated her as a person, not just a student, and she responded to that.

Here is the rub - we teachers know that we teach more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic.  We can’t just look at the beings in our classrooms as “just students.” We work to help these young people to become responsible, compassionate people beyond the classroom. However, this is no easy task, especially with the difficult student. “The thing is, we don't have to exhaust ourselves in order to keep caring or trying to reach a student. We just have to believe in them, want to help them, and keep offering them the choice to do better. And we have to communicate to them in some way that we will be there for them, no matter what choices they make, because we care more about them than about their academic progress” (Dearborn, 2015).  But just building a relationship is not enough.  We need to practice the art of forgiveness  Now, I am not saying that we just forget what has previously happened.  That would only insure that the same behavior will happen again.  I mean to give the student the opportunity to have fresh start every day with no mistakes. All relationships comes the act of forgiveness.  We have to forgive in order for the difficult student to learn from their poor choices and grow into the wonderful people we know they can be.

Dearborn, Grace. "Reaching and Teaching All Students Requires an Understanding of Them
inside and Out." Compassionate Discipline: Dealing with Difficult Students. Association

Linsin, Michael. "The 7 Rules Of Handling Difficult Students." Smart Classroom Management.
Smart Classroom Management, 25 July 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2017. <>.

McNeely, Robert. "Avoiding Power Struggles with Students." Avoiding Power Struggles with
Students The Dos and Don'ts of Dealing with Classroom Confrontations. NEAToday, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2017. <>.

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