Every teacher has students that they struggle to connect with in their classroom. We always have to remember that each student has entire world outside of school that affects the way they view the world and how they feel. Students want to feel like they are cared for and loved in their life. Some students have experienced or are experiencing trials and tribulations in their life that will affect how they interact with others in school. We need to be aware of this as teachers. When a student decides not to participate in a lesson or makes disrespectful comments about others, you need to remember that students are probably dealing with some tough issues that have nothing to do with you.

Address Students Needs

It took me years to realize that all of my negative student interactions were not my fault.  My first teaching experience with a student who are dealing with some emotional trauma from being in a foster home for most of her life. She would be silent and not talk to anyone when she was dealing with something difficult. I am not sure how this was helping her cope or address why she was upset, but I want to be respectful of her choices. I knew that did not want to force her to talk or push her into a more traumatic state. So I told her write down her responses on a piece of paper and submit the paper at the end of class. This enabled her to stay on track with her assignments and earn classroom participation grade for the day. I was also more willing to give her positive feedback notes to help her see that she was doing a great job in class. She smiled when I wrote joke to her on a sticky note. My intention was to make her happy.


Students want to feel they are being heard. When a student decides to act out in a certain way, they are trying to express that something is wrong or they can manage dealing with something (I am going to have a separate post about behavior management). Your job in this situation is to ensure that the student knows you are aware of their issues before the situation escalates into something more negative. One way to avoid escalation is by check-in with a student. You can simply check-in by saying hello or asking how the student is doing today. If the student is refusing to do work, check-in by asking the student if there is anything they can do for the student. Another way is ask the student to come into the hallway to speak with them briefly. Inform them before hand that they are not in trouble. When you get the student into the hallway, ask them about how they can actually help them complete the assignments or project in class. Inform them that their behavior will affect their grade which is not representative of what they can actually do. Provide some feedback on they can complete their assignments and be flexible. Being flexible can show that you are invested in their education and that you care about their issues. Students will return to class in a different head space and meet your expectations for the assignment.

Provide Support

Support the student with their assignments or have a student you trust to help the student complete their assignments. Students need help to readjust to the class when they are emotionally drained. Give them positive feedback when you see students who are overcoming their challenges. Place a “posi-note” that shows the student that you are seeing that they are making progress. Congratulate the student at the end of class when they complete their assignments and successfully stayed in class the entire period.

I would love to hear more feedback on some methods that you use with students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Leave a comment below.


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