Especially difficult pupils

Dealing With Difficult Behaviour

In most classes there will be a minority of children who are disruptive.  Maybe they are over-excited, have poor social skills, are disengaged, troubled by issues at home or have specific learning needs.  

The first thing to realise is that they are children and they are not attacking you.  They don't know you - how could it be personal?  Be calm, professional and remember that these children are in the minority.  Take a look at what the children say and you will see that the key factors are to remain calm, be kind, helpful and offer support.

Never accuse a child or ridicule them, no matter how many buttons they are pressing.  Instead, remember the language of choice. E.g. "You can choose to continue disrupting your table and do your work at lunchtime, OR you can do your work now and go to lunch with everyone else..."  


Work towards what you want to happen, don't dwell on what has occurred.  For example, if a child's behaviour miraculously improves the moment you send for the head teacher, praise the child for the right choices.  When the head teacher arrives, explain that you are pleased that he has arrived to see child x making good choices.

As a supply teacher you will not have the luxury of time to build up a trusting relationship with these children, so you will need to rely on short-term techniques to help keep their behaviour in check.

Below are a few techniques I know to work, but feel free to add your own at the bottom of the page.
  • Proximity praise - provide praise and rewards for children near to 'child x'.  Be specific about what they are doing well.
  • Have a 'special reward' (I carry certificates to send home) and explain that child x can have the reward if you catch him making good choices 5 times.  Provide updates to the child.
  • Give child x some limelight.  Choose him to help you demonstrate a key learning point - have the class ask him questions about it.
  • Seating.  If the children sitting with child x are contributing to his behaviour, move him.  Explain that he can return to his seat in 5 minutes if he can prove he can make better choices.
  • Move children away from child x.
  • Give child x a target for output.  Explain that he will be able to go to break / have a sticker if he reaches this mark on his paper. (Even if he cheats by using a large font, live up to your end of the bargain and laugh it off, praising him for his ingenuity.)
  • Negotiate what child x is required to do.  Say " I can see you are having trouble with this activity, and you don't want my help.  You can choose another activity to do instead, as long as I agree with it. I will give you a moment to come up with some alternatives then you can tell me what you have come up with".
  • Put child x in charge. Explain that the choices he is making are putting you, the teacher, in charge. Compliment him on his age and intellect, then explain that if he doesn't want to be 'bossed' by you, he should make his own grown-up decisions.
Of course, you still have the behaviour policy.  If nothing you are doing is getting through, and the child is unsettling the rest of the class, work towards removing him from the room.  Work through the behaviour policy - warnings, 'time out' in class etc.  The familiarity and structure of the policy may work to settle child x, or not.  Either way, be fair, transparent and consistent.

When the child returns to your class, strike a deal.  Explain that you are making a fresh start, and so should he.  Explain that you will need to report it to the class teacher, but that you would really like to report on how he has made better choices when he returned. Welcome him back and explain what the class are doing presently.


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