Updated: Feb 8
By: Kymberly Ellis
Education is one of the most interesting professional fields. Ironically enough, it seems as if it is also one of the most undervalued and underappreciated fields as well. During my time in this profession, I have learned that it definitely takes someone special to teach. There are so many factors: administration, students, parents, scores, lesson plans, etc. Those on the outside looking in seem to think that the breaks more than make up for the things with which educators deal, but most people don’t realize that we have earned that break within the first two weeks of the new school year. This is definitely the case when one of your most precious resources, can also prove to be your biggest challenge.
One of the big focus points in education right now is the lack of resources in some districts. However, when I previously mentioned resources, I am not talking about books or laptops. I am talking about the students themselves. As an educator, you will encounter hundreds of students and depending on how long your career lasts, thousands. While these students can be amazing and hold so much potential, some of them can be downright challenging. Now, they have their own reasons behind their behavior. I’ve learned as an educator, it is my job to teach and learn, not to judge. Regardless though, you have to learn how to handle difficult students.
Students sometimes, for whatever reason, do no realize that educators are still humans and have feelings just as they do. So, how do you deal with a difficult student? One of the best things I have learned is to try to at least learn my students’ backgrounds: who’s in their home? What neighborhood do they live in? Have they behaved the same way in other teachers’ classrooms? The purpose in learning the background of a student is to gain more insight into why they may behave in the manner they do. How do you learn? A lot of the time, I actually look through log entries, or comments made about the student by other staff members, actually talk to staff members, listen to the student’s interaction in class, and actually try to talk to the student.
I had a student who within the first two weeks of the school year, had been written up and put out of class. I generally do my best not to write a student up, but I also do not tolerate blatant disrespect. After that, I kid you not, he did almost a complete change. He stopped disrupting class, began to not only complete but turn in quality work; he was a completely different person. One day, when the class was transitioning, I called him up and spoke to him on the side. I basically just told him he was doing much better and that he had done a complete 180 from where he started. To my surprise, he kind of waved me off and started to walk away. I called him back. I said “Wait a minute. I’m paying you a compliment and you walk away…do you realize how rude it was to walk away while I was talking to you?” His response? “I don’t be trying to hear all that”.
I was beyond baffled. I questioned whether or not he’d prefer that or him getting put out and written up because he seemed extremely responsive to that. During our brief conversation, I realized something. Between conversations with teachers and deans, never being able to reach his mom, his behavior, and the fact that he did begin to backslide, this young man was not used to receiving compliments. He didn’t know how to take it and in fact, he was used to getting in trouble and being “good” was too much work…too much pressure. From that point on, I learned that it probably wasn’t best to “praise” him for his progress.
As educators, we have to learn when there is something deeper than just “bad behavior”. In so many situations, just talking to students allows me to realize that their behavior is a sign of something else: trouble at home, deflection due to lack of understanding, not receiving any guidance whatsoever….the list is actually endless. When dealing with students like this, you may have to put in a little extra time, research, work, and conversation. You must practice extreme patience and in addition to that, you may have to teach things a little differently in the event that the student doesn’t understand and is acting out as a deflection. You have to be flexible and adaptable.
Being an educator is not for the faint of heart and it is by no means an easy task. However, if you answer that call, and commit to learning while teaching, the difference you can make is unbelievable.
Meet Kymberly Ellis. She is a single mother of four, writer, blogger, doctoral student, and educator, who’s working on accomplishing goals daily.
Education and Teaching Experience:
BA English Studies, M.Ed. Multi Cross-categorical Special Education, pursuing Ed.D Organizational Leadership
3/12-9/12 high school substitute teacher
9/12-9/16 high school Paraprofessional
9/16-current high school SPED co-teacher
Click here to check out her personal blog!