Recently, a reader wrote to me saying:

I am currently midway through student teaching and am struggling with classroom management (surprise!). I am not really getting any feedback from my cooperating teacher, other than “use short, quick redirects” and “your emotions are too transparent to students”. I worked in business for 18 years prior to this experience and I’m just struggling with how to try and turn a tense situation around. I have read through the articles posted on this site and they have given me some good ideas to work with. Here is my question: What can you do to turn around a tense relationship with students who do not regard you as “the person in charge”? (I hear comments that because I am a student teacher, I am a “fake” teacher, what I do with students does not count, etc. ). Not surprisingly, I am really thinking that teaching might not be for me.

Basically, my advice was:

[H]ow do you calm tense relationships? I think the number one thing is to understand where the kids are coming from. In my situation, I teach middle school. So when my kids do something crazy, it’s usually because they are in middle school. It functions as an all-around excuse. But that, as well as these tips should help out quite a bit.

So I thought I would present an opportunity for my readers to jump in and help a soon-to-be teacher. Pooling the combined amount of leadership and teaching experience of the 100+ readers of this blog, I’m sure we can come up with some great solutions!

By Joel Wagner

Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

4 thoughts on “Transforming A Tense Relationship Where There Is Low Respect”
  1. If I was this teacher I would start with a phone call home. I would explain the student’s attitude towards me and how it could hurt his progress in the classroom. Then I would start by looking at the student’s behavior what seems to be causing this. Maybe something could be done early to prevent this behavior from happening again.

  2. First I suggest you take a deep breath (or several if necessary) Don’t shout or lose your cool. Then separate yourself and the student from an audience. Many children do things for the effect. Talk TO the student, not down to them. Even little kids understand being patronized. If you talk to them like you would an adult, they will respond better. See if you can discover why the student is acting out. Maybe the parents had a fight that morning and it ruined the child’s day.
    I don’t want to sound like a bleeding heart. Sometimes, I just have to yell. I use many different quiet signals to get student attention. I have very high expectations for the students behavior but you have to tell them what you expect or they don’t know.
    I believe you can’t give respect, it had to be earned. You can give love, attention, homework and a host of other things, but respect is earned. I give respect to students who have earned the right. I treat them all with love and a gentle word of encourgement. It really does make a difference.

  3. I went through my student teaching just over 2 years ago. I had the problem of being the “fake” teacher. No students ever took me seriously because my supervising teachers did not take me seriously. My supervising teacher deleted my grades for the students the day I left. I had students scream profanities to my face. I watched with horror my supervising teacher get a “wet willie” from a student and the teacher did nothing.

    I look back now and see my student teaching as something I had to endure to get into a school and a job I really wanted. Nothing I have experienced since student teaching has been as bad as my student teaching experience. The student teacher has to follow their supervising teacher’s atmosphere and climate in the classroom. If that teacher was lenient and you are not, there is going to be tension.

    I would stick to my guns on principle. I think the student teacher should not be thinking about leaving. Student teaching is not quite like real teaching. When you have your own classroom, it is a whole different ballgame. My first year was way easier than student teaching, with far less tension and management problems. The second year though….. ;)

    Stick in there and do not quit until you have your own classroom. Then see how you like it.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with Athena. For that matter, even if the first year or two of “real teaching” are bad, stick with it. If your heart is set on teaching children, then really take the time to LEARN how to teach them and set out to do just that.

    There are too many teachers out there who do it just because that’s the only degree they have and the only thing they feel they can do. Too many great teachers quit too soon because they are in The Dip and don’t persevere just a little bit longer to get through to becoming the best teacher in the world.

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