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A huge thank you to James Sturtevant for guest blogging today! I am a huge fan of his blog, podcasts and just finished his newest book. James is a teacher and author of Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips and Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily (part of the crazy popular Hack Learning Series) and You’ve Gotta’ Connect. You can follow James on his blog  on Twitter @jamessturtevant and you won’t want to miss his insightful podcasts on iTunes.

One of the hacks in my book is entitled…Engage the Enraged. I loved writing about this because it’s SO much of what we do every day. There are kids in our classes, who quite frankly, are no fun to be around:

  • These are the students who keep us up at night
  • These are the students who we get into imaginary confrontations with on our drive home
  • Our spouses asks us why we’re making such a sour face…AND IT’S BECAUSE WE’RE THINKING ABOUT THESES KIDS
  • These are the students who descend on the rest of the class like a thunderstorm when they enter our rooms each morning

Got the picture? I thought so! We all teach kids like this. But please hear me…no one forced you to become a teacher! In fact, weren’t you expecting to have some students like this?


It’s your responsibility to try to bond with these guys. Who else is going to do it, if you don’t? It’s time to flip your paradigm when it comes to such youngsters. How about welcoming their presence? Instead of lamenting a difficult kid, repeat the following mantra…I’m glad little Johnny is in my class. He’s my teacher! SAY WHAT? Please, stay with me. Master this challenge on two fronts:

  1. Win this kid over
  2. Control your ego and don’t get sucked into their drama

Accomplishing this Herculean task will be good for you. It’s amazing what happens when you assume the disposition that you’re not going to let a young person’s barbs throw you off your game. You can actually develop quite an ego about controlling your ego. But more importantly, this young person needs you! Working patiently and compassionately towards forging a relationship doesn’t always work…but many times it does. Even if you think you’re unsuccessful, you’ve been a wonderful model of compassion and tolerance. Who knows…the fruits of your labor may blossom down the road.

Here are some specific steps to take. I made your problem kid a dude:

  • Try engaging him in casual conversation about non-controversial topics
  • Try engaging him by smiling frequently
  • Try engaging him by greeting him warmly…whenever possible
  • Try engaging him by complimenting him when he’s deserving
  • Try engaging him by taking an interest in what he does outside of school
  • Try engaging him by helping him express himself in more effective and succinct ways
  • Try engaging him by keeping your cool when he spouts something disgusting

If you’re able to engage this problem child, benefits will abound:

  • He’ll succeed academically
  • He’ll succeed socially
  • You’ll confront your biases
  • You’ll become more empathetic

You may have already tried all this stuff and it didn’t work. That’s okay! Keep trying! Your efforts may be more effective than is readily apparent.

Be grateful for kids who rattle your cage. They can be your great teachers!


-James Sturtevant