Professional Development

June 23, 2017

4 Ways to Connect with Difficult Students

We have the privilege of being the most consistent adult in our students’ lives during the school year. Some students are naturally easier to connect with than others. Common interests, parent involvement, and personality all create a simple avenue of connection with our students. Other students have a harder time connecting with their teacher and other adults. Each year there will be one or more students who you will struggle to connect with. Don’t give up, there is hope!

We have the opportunity to be the adult that helps them understand that they are safe, loved, and accepted. There are years, as teachers, that we have made mistakes. Exhaustion, a long list of teaching expectations, and difficult students make it emotionally draining to go the extra mile. This year can be different. We can learn and grow just like our students. I know by the end of the school year my students who require a little extra love end up being some of my most treasured ones that have transformed the way I teach.

Connecting with difficult students can be tricky, but these 4 tips are sure to help any classroom teacher!

Here are 4 ways you can connect with your difficult students this year and help your students see the best in themselves!

2×2 Method

Spend two intentional minutes a day for two weeks straight with this specific student and see what happens! Negative attention is attention. Show them that they can have your attention each day without fighting for it. Reading a story with them, asking them about their life or day, and stepping into their world will help you learn more about them as well.

Recess is Best 

My most difficult student had a very hard time connecting with peers. Recess was a tough time of the day because of the freedom it offered, and my child recognizing that he was alone. My favorite memories with that student were tossing the football with him at recess each day. He would stand by me, and as we tossed the ball the other students would join in too! We worked on team building, gross motor skills, cooperation, and laughing together! Recess is a great time in a neutral environment where you can meet your child where they’re at. Bring magnifying glasses outside and explore together, or find something that would appeal to their interest while still letting you interact with other students as well.

Lunch Time 

I hear the collective sigh from all of the teachers that just happened as you read this! Don’t worry, I am not recommending that you give up your lunchtime each day. We are naturally protective with our kid-less time that we rarely get throughout the teaching day. Protect that time, but also be willing to schedule one lunch a week with those students. Spend time in the lunchroom with them, or allow them to invite a buddy and eat with you in the room. Sometimes it is helpful to step out of the normal routine of the week and allow them to see you as someone who wants to get to know more about them! Some of my students who needed extra care needed a time to step away from the loud and crazy. Having a break at lunch with some quiet and calm was exactly what they needed to finish out the day strong.

Family Time

Most parents are not able to spend time in the classroom during the day, so reach out to their family and brainstorm how you can get them involved! A positive note home each week, a phone call to get to know them better, or setting a consistent parent meeting time helps build a strong relationship with their family. As I learned more about my student’s families, I learned more about their day and what makes them tick. I learned about the sports they played, the friends and family they enjoyed, and I even learned more about their home life. I learned that they also did not eat breakfast and when they were hungry they would be unbearable. I learned that a few of them had very late bedtimes, and were irritable and cranky every morning before school. This is a great opportunity for you to partner with their parents in a positive way to help them raise a successful student. Keep trying, and don’t give up. It may take an entire school year for you to build a strong relationship with their family.

There are many ideas on how to build a positive relationship with your difficult students, and as you can see our main focus in this post is on relationship building. With a strong relationship built on trust and safety, your difficult students will grow and develop at an amazing pace. Practice self-care as a teacher, get good rest, and come to school each day ready to start new!

You’ve got this!

Connecting with difficult students can be tricky, but these 4 tips are sure to help any classroom teacher!pin it

Happy Teaching,



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Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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