How To Stay The Course With A Tough Class

Smart Classroom Management: How To Stay The Course With A Tough ClassThe tougher the class, the easier it is to be inconsistent.

The easier it is to give in and lose control.

Which is why when you have a challenging group of students you must be mentally tough.

You must be, as Winston Churchill once said, “a peg, hammered into the frozen ground, immovable.”

But how?

How do you stay the course day after day?

How do you stay strong when your students are trying to get under your skin?

How do you enforce a consequence when it’s the last thing in the world you feel like doing?

Well, nobody does it naturally.

Everyone feels resistance. Everyone at times feels a seemingly irresistible pull to cave in, back down, and look the other way.

It can also be difficult to be “on” in every moment. Maybe you’re not feeling well. Maybe it’s Friday afternoon and you’re just so ready to call it a day.

Maybe things are finally going well and you think, “Why not just let it go this one time? What’s the harm?” 

Whatever the reason, failing to follow through on your promises is always a mistake.

Which is why you need something you can lean on, an attitude or frame of mind that stays with you and sustains you through your weakest moments.

What follows are three key thoughts that will give you the mental toughness you need to stay the course, no matter how challenging your class.

1. Do it for them.

The most effective teachers have an overabundance of mama/papa bear in them that says, “It’s my job to protect my students’ right to learn and enjoy school, and come what may, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

There is no one else to safeguard your students from disruption, bullying, being made fun of, and the like but you.

Their school year, their future, and their parent’s hopes and dreams for them are at stake. For one year, anyway, they’re entirely in your hands.

When you embrace this responsibility (and reality), it makes following through and doing right by your students so much easier. In fact, it makes it the most natural thing in the world.

2. Be willing to lose your job.

There is great strength in committing to a task, not merely in a sense that it’s something you’re determined to do, but rather something you invest in so completely that you allow yourself no other choice.

You will do it.

A powerful way to embody this feeling is to adopt the attitude that they—administration, powers that be, educational establishment, etc.—will have to fire you and drag you from the classroom to stop you from fulfilling your promises to your students.

It represents a level of commitment that will effectively repel all forms of resistance, no matter how strong.

Ironically, with this mindset, not only will you never lose your job, but you’ll be admired by your colleagues, beloved by your students, and left alone by your principal.

3. Accept that it’s the only way.

When your class is out of control and the students seem so disrespectful, callous, and unmotivated, what you’re seeing isn’t who they really are.

Poor leadership, ineffective strategies, and inconsistency in the past have created what you’re seeing.

The only way to fix it, the only way to sweep away the negativity and reveal the very best in your students—as well as in yourself—is to bring fair, honest, and consistent accountability into the picture.

Accepting that it’s the only way to peace, the only way to inspired teaching and learning, and the only way to the stress-free career you really want is all the motivation you need to stay the course.

The Way It’s Going To Be

Several years ago, there was a rumor that the President was coming by the school I was working at for a visit. (He never did.)

Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Well, if he comes into my room, he’ll have to follow the rules just like everyone else.”

I laugh at the thought, but it underscores the level of commitment needed to follow through on your promise to create a safe and enjoyable learning experience for your students.

Even if you don’t teach in an especially difficult school, or you’re not in the midst of trying to turn around an out-of-control class, cultivating a tough mindset is still incredibly valuable.

In fact, in time it will become not just an attitude or mentality you carry with you to school every day.

But who you are.

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16 Responses to How To Stay The Course With A Tough Class

  1. sandy alvarez November 4, 2017 at 7:52 am #

    Thank you. I enjoyed reading the tips.

  2. Jan P November 4, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    I follow this behaviour plan and I’m seeing a big difference. But what if it’s always the same kids going to time out and getting a letter?
    In my class it’s the same 3 children! Some days I run out of tables to exclude them.

    • Amoy January 11, 2018 at 8:47 pm #

      I’m having that same issue as well. The same set of students are being sent out for disrupting class all the time. I am going to implement this behavior plan as well and see if this will make a difference.

  3. Kathy November 4, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

    So tired of being given the students that need patience. I deal with them without help as that is my way. I just don’t know if I can do this anymore. Looking for help in these books but when you are exhausted and burnt out it is hard to stay positive. I try to remember why I started teaching as an older adult; to make a difference. Sometimes it just seems as if students today can’t be reached and that they don’t care. Thanks for the ear.

  4. Leah November 4, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

    I have been reading a lot of your articles after recognizing I lost control of my 7th graders. I have been implementing many of your strategies but I am still struggling to even get them to do the entry procedure correctly the first time. I’ve re-taught, modeled it, showed non-examples, observed them and told them what I saw and what needs improvement, have them re-do it almost everyday, but they just see it as free time (or a waste of time and are frustrated) and continue to do it incorrectly. I know it is my fault for the lack of consistency early in the year, and now many just do not like my class so do not see the point in practicing the entry procedure. I am trying to engage them more in lessons and build rapport with them but I am just not seeing improvement. It gets harder and harder to stay the course. I am feeling very stuck and don’t know if I need to change something else or keep doing what I’m doing.

    Thank you for all you do, you have really changed my mindset about management this year. I feel like I finally understand why I’ve had so many problems, I just wish I understood before August…

  5. Chris November 4, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Kathy keep going, I have been there and got the t shirt. Making the difference to 1 child is worth everything. I was given a group of students who were “in a waiting room to go to prison”. Don’t waste your time on them. They got functional skills 1 & 2 in ict and maths and thanks to another wonderful lady, English. That got them on to collage courses and apprenticeships, they have a future other than our worst nightmare. A student would not talk to me or communicate civilly for seven months. Then he laughed. Then he asked me to teach him two weeks before his Gcse. Did I make a difference? You need to ask him. Teach/ interact with these kids because you want to. Remember you are not a bad person if you cannot, find somewhere you feel good and supported in what you are doing. They are out there and these kids need you.

    Be willing to lose your job. In an ideal world.

  6. Kirsten November 4, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    I’m a substitute teacher. I read your advice regularly – but I have no way to CONSISTENTLY do anything! I do the best I can, day after day, but rarely get the same class twice. Would love to have some tips on how to do it all in one day!

  7. Chris November 4, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    The hardest part sometimes for me is not always the commitment to enforce a consequence each time, but to find one that matters. To some students, a letter home is no big deal.

    What would you do in this case (without involving the principal)?

    • Michael Linsin November 5, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      I’ve written about this topic perhaps more than any other. When you get a chance, I encourage you to spend some time in the Classroom Management Plan and Rules & Consequences categories of the archive.

  8. Lisa November 4, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

    Same here! I’m a substitute teacher also! I’m always looking for advice and ideas for classroom management. My biggest help so far has been to carry a clipboard and make a seating chart as I take attendance. I get the biggest looks of shock when I call a student out by name! It may take longer to take attendance this way but it is worth it. This also is helpful when I leave a note for their teacher with the names of students who had great behavior and names of students who were a big challenge or caused trouble. I let them students know up front that I have their names and I will leave a note about everything that happens in class and I do leave a very detailed note. Teachers comment that they really appreciate it and I get called back to do their class again fairly often. With a repeat with the same classes it gets easier to know the students and for them to know me.

    • Alycia November 6, 2017 at 1:46 am #

      Great advice Lisa and much appreciated from a newby supply teacher.

  9. budda November 5, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

    I teach 7th and 8th grade. I found my 8th grade class a huge challenge. I have followed some of the examples on this site. I liked how I re-booted the class. I made everyone line up outside the door, and treated it like the first day of school. I passed out the rules and expectations, went over hw policies. There has been an improvement, but some days are better than others. Interestingly, the 7th graders are so much better and fun. However, I’ve taken the advice here and decided to like my 8th grade class no matter what. Whatever happens, I just let it wash over me and keep going.

  10. Howard Greenberg November 22, 2017 at 6:26 am #

    Your plan lists three levels of consequences. What do you do when you reach the third consequence and the student still is not following the rules ?

    • Michael Linsin November 22, 2017 at 6:47 am #

      Hi Howard,

      You cycle them back to the second consequence.


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