It was one of those final dying days of May when one of my students asked the question, “Do you have students you don’t like?”
“Nope,” I said, immediately noting the lie that had come out of my mouth. “I love all of my students.”
Now let me explain. No ones sees the good (or at least tries to see the good) in a student quite like a teacher. But the truth is, we’ve all had a difficult student now or then. Maybe they refuse to work or talk too much. Perhaps they always ask for extra credit when they haven’t done the regular work. Maybe they really dislike us for whatever reason, and they’re not afraid to vocalize it.
So unfortunately, there are sometimes students we just don’t like very much. Now before you criticize, I want you to know that I’m uncomfortable with this reality. So over the years, I’ve put together a list of ways to love even the most challenging student.
1. It’s time to swallow your pride
I’ve found this to be the most difficult step in learning to love the kids you don’t like. Often times, kids who are easy to dislike are students who challenge us as teachers. They challenge our classroom procedures, our assignments, and they almost always challenge our patience. The hardest thing to do in this scenario is the most necessary. In order to find the love in your heart for that child, we must swallow our pride. Try to move past your feelings and remind yourself that every kid deserves a fantastic teacher.
2. Take up kickboxing.
Need to work out some stress? Consider taking up an activity like kickboxing to relieve your stress. Teaching in general is an exercise in stress management. We have to manage our stress even more so with the ones we don’t like. Learning to love your more challenging students is easier when you aren’t stressed.
3. Try hard, harder, and harderer.
One thing you may already know about difficult students is that they are …well …difficult. They work your nerves, cook your grits, grind your gears, tiff you off, and just about every other colloquial term for annoying the crap out of you. Difficult students require hard work to reach. So try your hardest to reach them and when you want to give up, try hard again.
4. It’s time to get even.
Each year is a long journey you take with your students. They say that laughter is the best medicine on Earth. If you want to learn to love someone, try laughing with them. The goal of this is to both get even from all the heartache they cause you, and also attempt to win them over by creating a funny memory. I’ve even been known to get parents involved. Whatever you do, remember, getting even is all about creating humorous memories so you may win the kid over.
5. Get creative.
At the end of the day, our job is not just to teach classes. We do this to change the world. To reach students the best way we can we have to be creative and sometimes try the unexpected. Learning to love the ones you don’t like takes creativity. For instance, give your toughest student a major classroom responsibility. Or find the a way to affirm the positive things from the student who is ALWAYS sarcastic. By engaging students, you will always win their hearts.
6. Never give up on any of them.
This one is plain and simple. All of your students need you. I know there are days when you need a bottomless well filled with coffee to put up with the ones you don’t like, but do not give up on them. You could be the teacher who changes their life!
7. Help them find ways to change the world.
I was the kid that many of my teachers had to learn to love. Today, I am a teacher trying to figure out how to love kids like me. I am trying to change the planet one student at a time. My own life has shown me that no teacher should ever give up on any child. Learn to love them because even if every grey hair on your head comes from that kid, they still have the potential to change the world. You should be a part of that change!
It is our job to teach and reach kids. Yes this means the ones we love and the ones we must learn to love!
Tell us: What do you do to connect with a difficult student? We’d love to hear in the comments.