How to Manage Intimidating Student Behavior

How to Manage Intimidating Student Behavior

Crowded classrooms and lack of funding have come to be common features of public education in America. There just aren’t sufficient funds to lower class sizes, hire specialists, and give students the resources they need. As a result, destructive and intimidating student behaviors have increased.  It’s not fair to teachers, to the student acting out, or to the other students in the classroom. Teachers are heartbroken for their students and frustrated with the lack of funding and support. It’s no surprise, of course, that these circumstances can lead to teacher attrition.

“Student disciplinary problems, administrative support, and professional development strongly influence teacher turnover.”

The Brookings Institute

More support is needed to reduce intimidating student behavior.

Teachers in the trenches need practical solutions for managing intimidating student behavior in the classroom. They need professional development that actually applies to the classrooms they’re teaching in. Students need mental health services. Teachers need mental health services. Teachers and advocates must continue to speak up for improved resources for our schools. In the meantime, there are a few things teachers can do to manage intimidating situations with students.

1. Relationships are everything.

From the beginning, find a way to connect with “challenging” students. Find a common interest, something that you can build a relationship on. Earn their trust first, and the tough conversations about their behavior can follow. Having one caring adult can sometimes make all the difference for kids in crisis.

2. Hold students accountable.

Kids need structure. If you have firm classroom rules and corresponding consequences, you’re setting the tone for the school year. You make sure that every student in your class knows the rules, and knows what happens when they break them. You always follow through. This consistency teaches students that you mean what you say- you’re trustworthy. Your irrefutable classroom rules are the boundaries that make students feel safe. Check out and print out these 25 classroom jobs that can help promote kindness and responsibility.

3. Safety first, always.

If you or your class are made to feel unsafe by a student’s behavior, you have a responsibility to act. Calmly ask the student to leave the room, and call the office and/or another teacher for back up. If the student is violent or destructive, remove the rest of your students from the room. No one can learn when they feel unsafe. Room clears are common practice in many schools. If your school doesn’t have a procedure in place, ask for a meeting with administration and student support services to determine the best plan of action, as well as backup plans.

4. Find your inner zen.

When things get heated for a student, it’s important that the adult in the room remains cool and collected. Easier said than done, of course, but remind yourself that children acting in a disruptive manner are seeking a response. Calm may not be what they are looking for, but it’s often exactly what they need. Speak to them directly and clearly state your expectations. Be the yin to their yang- when their voice is loud, your voice is calm and gentle. When their face is full of rage, your facial expression is neutral. When they are out of control, you are in control. When you are firm, fair, calm, and unwavering, all of your students feel anchored.

5. Repair the damage.

When the episode is over, talk to your class. Let them express their feelings and assure them that they are safe. Tie the conversation back to your classroom rules. Show them that you maintain structure by insisting on safety for everyone. It’s also crucial to reconnect with the student who acted in a way that was intimidating. Meet with them later, when they’re calm. Ask your principal and/or school counselor to attend the meeting. You shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Let the student know that while you cannot and will not tolerate unsafe behavior, you understand their complex emotions. You are there for them and you want to help them find positive ways to express the pain that they feel.

Teachers are expected to wear all the hats, take on all the roles, and handle complex situations for which they are undertrained and underpaid. The crazy thing is, teachers always rise to the occasion. When politicians, administrators, funding, and society fail students, time and time again, teachers are still here. Teachers do what needs to be done, and they do it with precious little resources. Why? It’s certainly not for the paycheck. They rise, so that students may rise. They’re in it for the kids, intimidating student behavior and all.

Also Check Out:

How to Manage Intimidating Student Behavior

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Kristen Nance

Senior Member

Kristen Nance is an elementary school teacher in Oregon. She is passionate about children's literature, has an affinity for black cats, and is obsessed with ravens. She reads every mystery novel she can get her hands on, and feels happiest when she is near the ocean.

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