Connect with Your Most Challenging Students

It's October.  At this point, you have narrowed down your really difficult students for the school year.

The kiddos who make it really hard to complete your job.

The ones you just "don't want to deal with today".

Those who cause teacher burn out.

The ones who need you the most.

You have already started to implement strategies to manage behaviors.  Yet, you ask yourself, "will these strategies work all year?"  Chances are, no.

As a Special Education teacher, I have spent the last three years working alongside many students classified with emotional disturbance disorders.  In that time, I learned a trick or two for tackling even the most difficult of students.

Here, I am providing you with my top tips for helping you not only cope with these very unique children, but lay the ground work for building relationships with the most fragile children of the bunch.
Do your research.  Have you been "warned" about this particular child?  It is always a good idea to ask the child's previous teacher some questions; however, err on the side of caution here.

Don't get caught up in bashing the child's reputation.

Grab only the most necessary information, not the gossip.  

It's always a good idea to talk to the child's counselor or school psychologist (chances are these staff members are already familiar with the student).

Finally, and probably your best resource of all, head to the student's file.  You will learn a lot about his or her family and school history from this little gem.
There is no better way to learn about a student than taking the time to sit and talk.  He or she might be confused at first, and may not even want to talk with you.

Be patient.

Gain the child's trust by listening.

Learn his or her likes and dislikes.  Use them to your advantage.

The more you know about a student, the stronger the connection and the more patience you will likely have when he or she starts to push your buttons.
Ask yourself, "are the child's basic needs being met?"

One of my little guys this year comes to school most days of the week not having eaten breakfast.  I allow this student to keep a box of cereal in the closet and the student eats while completing our morning work.

The child feels cared about.

The child is not hungry.

The child's basic need is being met.

The child does work.  The child is pleasant.  We have a relationship.
Create choices for your students.  Centers are a great way to tackle this one.  You create the choices, but they have the power to choose.  So long power struggle!

Apply this same rule to the small things as well.  For example, some of my little guys have sensory issues and they do not like writing with pencils.

Nails on the chalkboard, anyone?

Yep.  That's life for these guys and pencils.

I do not fight this battle.  Who has time for that?

Sure, they can use the erasable long as they do the work.

Choices people...choices.
Could you run nonstop for six hours?

I don't think so.

So, why make your students?

Give students the necessary breaks they need.  By doing so, you are telling your kiddos, "hey, I know what you need."  They love you even more.  You all get some much need breaks for your brains.

You all live happily ever after...right??

What are some of the ways you connect with your difficult kiddos?  Leave your comments below! I'd love to hear about them!

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