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Strategies for Managing Problem Students

When teachers and students interact with each other in the classroom, make assessments of each other. The sizing up goes on all the time whether or not teachers recognize it. Most of the assessments take place in the beginning of the schoolyear, but judgments are modified as the days go by as students perceive the teachers strengths and weakness as disciplinarians and as teachers gain insights into students mental health and personal adjustment.

Assessments and perceptions influence how teachers and students respond to each other when problems occur. For instance, if students see the teacher as a weak disciplinarian, they tend to engage in more disruptive behavior than if they perceive the teacher as strong disciplinarian. Teachers perception of students can serve as a basis for understanding and coping with particular problem situations. However, attributional judgment by the teacher can cause more harm than good if teachers judgment of students are open to modification, they can be useful in dealing with students who misbehave.

The list below is a description by teachers of students with problems:


  1. Failure syndrome. These students are convinced that they can not do the work so that they often avoid starting up and give up easily. In other words, they expect to fail even after seceding.

  2. Perfectionist. These students are unduly anxious about making mistakes. They have self-imposed standards that are often unrealistically high. They are never satisfied with their work. They are often anxious, fearful or frustrated about their work so that they hold back from classroom participation unless sure of themselves.

  3. Underachiever. These students merely do the minimum to get by. They do not value schoolwork, not challenged by schoolwork and are poorly motivated.

  4. Low achiever. These students have difficulty, even though they may be willing to work. Their problem is low potential or lack of readiness rather than poor motivation. They have difficulty following directions, difficulty completing work poor retention and progress slowly.

  5. Hostile aggressive. These students express hostility through direct, intense behavior and not easily controlled. They intimidate and threaten, hit and push, damage properly, antagonize and are easily angered.

  6. Passive aggressive. These students express opposition and resistance to the teacher indirectly. It is often hard to tell whether they are resisting deliberately or not. They are subtly oppositional and stubborn, try borderline compliance with rules, mark and damage property, disrupt surreptitiously and often drag their feet.

  7. Defiant. These students resist authority and carry on a power struggle with the teacher. They want to have their way and dislike being told what to do. They resist verbally and utter derogatory statements about the teacher and others. They resist nonverbally with frowns and grimaces; arms folded and hands on lips. Foot stomping, looking away when being spoken to, laughs at inappropriate times, mimics posture of teacher says not to do and may be physically violent toward teachers.

  8. Hyperactive. These students show excessive and almost constant movement, even when sitting. Often their movements appear to be without purpose. They squirm, jiggle, scratch, are excitable, blurt out answers and comments, often not in their seat, bother others with noise and movement. They are energetic but poorly motivated.

  9. Distractable. These students have short attention spans. They seem unable to sustain attention and concentration. They have difficulty adjusting to changes, rarely complete tasks and are easily distracted by sights, sounds or music.

  10. Immature. These students have poorly developed emotional stability, self-care abilities, social skills or responsibility. They often exhibit behavior normal for younger children, may cry easily, lose belonging, frequently appear helpless, incompetent or dependent.

  11. Rejected by peers. These students seek peer interaction but are rejected excluded or ignored. They are forced to work and play alone, lack social skills and often picked on or teased.

  12. Withdrawn. These students avoid personal interaction, are inobtrusive, and not respond well to others. They are quiet and sober and do not initiate or volunteer, do not call attention to self.


A few problem students in a class can create anxiety, battle fatigue, and even fear for some teachers. The student who may be the teachers biggest problem if handled correctly can become the teachers best friend. The knowing teacher devotes ectra time to the students problem before it comes to a head in class. He seeks out information and advice from parents, former teachers, guidance counselors and the students classmates and friends. The idea is to get to know the students poor work and behavior quickly. Serious incidents do not just happen: anxieties collect and build up. The teacher who has common sense, emotional maturity, and good professional training can translate the students inappropriate behavior becomes threatening or uncontrollable and before direct action is needed.

Here are some tips for teachers:


  1. Accept the students as they are, but build on and accentuate their positive qualities.

  2. Be yourself, since these students ca recognize phoniness and take offense at such deceit.

  3. Be confident; take charge of the situation, and dont give up in front of the students.

  4. Provide structure, since many of these students lack inner control and are restless and impulsive.

  5. Explain your rules and routines so that students understand them. Be sure your explanations are brief, otherwise you lose your effectiveness and you appear to be defensive or preaching.

  6. Communicate positive expectations that you expect the students to learn and you require academic work.

  7. Rely on motivation and not your prowess to maintain order, an interesting lesson can keep the students on task.

  8. Be a firm friend, but maintain a psychological and physical distance so your students know you are still the teacher.

  9. Keep calm, and keep your students calm, especially when conditions become tense or upsetting. It may be necessary to delay action until after class, when emotions have been reduced.

  10. Size up the situation and be aware of undercurrents of behavior, since this students are sizing you up and knowing manipulators of their environment.

  11. Anticipate behavior; being able to judge what will happen if you or your student decide on the course of action may allow you to curtail many problems.

  12. Expect, but dont accept misbehavior. Learn to cope with misbehavior but dont get upset or feel inadequate about it.


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