5 Difficult Students in Every Class and How to Handle Them

By: Mona Abdel-Moneim, 17 Dec 2017

As if the teaching vocation is not hard enough the way it is, teachers are also handed the additional responsibility of a little parenting on the side.  It’s no big deal when you’re lucky enough to teach a class of generally well-behaved students, but when this is not the case, you find yourself doing more disciplining than actual teaching.

Now, you might be thinking about the cards you’ve been dealt in the troublesome student department, and if you’ve got many of them, then that’s bad news. But even then,the good news is that you’re not alone and that there are a few simple ways to deal with each and every one of them.

1- Mr/Mrs. Know-It-All


They are convinced they know more than you do and they’re there every single day to prove it to you and the entire class. They have already scanned the curriculum for mistakes and they will interrupt you and their colleagues mid sentence to point out where they think you have gone wrong. Those folks can make the learning experience for your students a living hell and can keep you on your toes when you really need not be.

So, what to do? Well, never challenge, ignore or insult them. And, by all means, don’t just wait for it to end because it never will. The reason a Know-It-All keeps interrupting class and showing off is that they are covering up for their insecurities and need your validation. So, first of all, acknowledge their intelligence and invite them to share what they know.  If they really know everything you’re teaching in that class, then give them more advanced exercises, extra readings and use their help as a teaching assistant, so they too could have a beneficial learning experience.


2- The Dreamer

The only time they’re holding a pen is when they’re doodling. Otherwise, they are staring out the window, resting their head on their arm, or staring at you with that blank look on their faces that just tells you they’re in a far far away galaxy.

Research has proven that mind-wandering is closely related to a better working memory. Backed by a body of research, this article in shows how  daydreaming is connected with creativity, healthy social adjustment, and good school performance which means that you shouldn’t be discouraging daydreaming completely.  But, if you notice that it is creating significant learning problems for your student, that is when you need to step in. First, if your teaching technique depends more on lecturing, then you’ll need to engage your students in more student-centered activities. You can also help the child learn how to gain control over their daydreaming and snap out of it when they need to by self-monitoring their behavior or by informing their parents to find outlets for creativity such as art classes, science labs and play groups. Besides improving nutrition and helping the child get enough sleep, parents can also teach their child a technique like mindful-breathing to improve focus.

3- The Bully

It’s that obnoxious kid in class that just won’t leave anyone alone. Hidden punches, hair pulls, name-calling, gossiping , you name it. Now those could be the worst kind of problematic students because their disruptive behavior is not only targeted at you as a teacher, but extends beyond class hours causing irreversible psychological damage to targeted children.

As a teacher, you have immense power over this, so do not suffice with reporting it to the principle and definitely don’t just look the other way. Confront the bully, not by screaming at them, but with patience and respect. To be sure that it won’t continue when you’re not around, teach your students to stand up for victims and not just stand there and watch. It would help if the school has a code of conduct against bullying, but if not, you can demand to talk to the bully’s parents about it.


4- The Flatterer


It’s the kid that will always enthusiastically greet you at the door, nod approvingly to everything you say in class and carry your things for you after class ends. It might be hard to tell if such kid is a genuine fan or not, but that shouldn’t make a lot of difference in how you deal with them.

Either way, don’t treat them better than the others, don’t give them better grades and don’t treat them any differently than you would any other student. Because playing favorites will cause resentment from others students, weaken their self-confidence and further alienate other problematic students. So, choose to see the best in every student in your class and try to build rapport with each and every one equally.


5- The Compulsive Liar


You catch them doing something against the rules and you confront them, only to find them aggressively lie and deny everything you believe you saw with your own two eyes. “ I didn’t do anything! I swear!”

The solution is not to keep on refuting what the student is saying, because that could go on forever. If you know the truth, there is no reason to debate, just enforce your rules calmly and matter-of-factly then get back to what you were doing.  You should have a pre-set list of rules and penalties for bad behaviour that your students must know already. If you stay true to them, such problems will decrease and you will find that your students’ love and respect for you will increase.








Mona Abdel-Moneim

Mona is a college teacher turned digital marketeer. She studied English literature as an undergrad and social sciences as a graduate student.  In February 2015, Mona joined Educate Me as a volunteer, and was recruited into the PR team in September 2016.

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