Dear WeAreTeachers,
I teach 9th and 10th grade math in Dallas at a school where 90% of the students are Black and Hispanic. In one of my classes, I have two students who laugh very loudly together—so loud it’s a distraction. I’ve redirected them nearly every day since the beginning of the year, but it’s still a daily problem. Last week, I jokingly told them they needed to learn how to laugh quieter, and one of them said that was racist. I pointed out that if I were racist, why would I be teaching at their school? That landed me in hot water with my admin. I’m not racist—at all—and am offended that apparently everyone except me gets to decide what my motivations are. How do I come back from this? —Colorblind

Dear C.,

Early in my teaching, I had to record a video of myself teaching and send it

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contributed by Dr. Allen Mendler

While stress caused by common core concerns has dominated the recent education landscape, dealing with ‘difficult’ students remains the number one source of constant tension for most teachers.

Continual exposure to students who won’t behave or produce can quickly erode both confidence and well-being.

As a new school year approaches, the guidance offered by six ‘pillars’ can help you stay at the top of your game by dramatically influencing even your most challenging students to want to behave and achieve. Each pillar is explained followed by a few hands-on suggestions. Add or substitute other methods within each pillar to reflect your style and preference.

6 Strategies For Growing Closer To Your Most Challenging Students

1. Establish Trust

‘Difficult’ students may have difficulty trusting adults and authority figures, perhaps because they have been jilted in the past. Build trust so that you can build a real,

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