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How to Deal with Disrespectful Students

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Disrespectful students can damage a learning environment and make a teacher's job more difficult. In this lesson, we will discuss some strategies for dealing with disrespectful students in the classroom.

Clarify Expectations

Arguably the most frustrating part of teaching for many educators is dealing with disrespectful students. You might think: why hasn't anyone taught them how to behave? One of the issues is that every one of our students comes from a unique background. On one extreme, there are parents that expect children to be seen and not heard, while on the other end of the spectrum, there are family cultures where family members talk over one another. In other words, your expectations for respect may be different from anything the student has ever encountered. Respect is demonstrating a positive opinion about another person. The good news is that as a teacher, you can teach your students to meet your expectations for respect. Let's examine some ways to deal with disrespectful students.

Model Your Expectations

There are lots of ways that you can show students how to be respectful. One of the biggest is by always treating every administrator, coworker, parent, and student with the same degree of respect you expect from your students. For example, if you roll your eyes when the principal comes on the intercom, why would you expect your students to behave any differently? Respectful behavior may seem foreign to some students who will learn a great deal from seeing respect in action.

Models for respectful behavior are everywhere. When you see students who are behaving respectfully, point it out to the others. If there is a student who struggles with behavioral issues, be sure to notice when positive behavior occurs and praise the student for it. Never respond to a student's disrespect by disrespecting that student.

Recognize Disrespect

Students also need to be taught to recognize disrespectful behavior. Even on children's television programming, it is common to see sarcasm, disrespect, and negativity. Students need to be explicitly taught to recognize disrespectful behavior when they see it. In contrast, 'please', 'thank you', 'ma'am', and 'sir' are simple word choices that convey respect. Making eye contact, smiling, and asking other people for their opinions are other ways that students should be taught to show respect.

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