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5 Tips for Teachers When Your Class Roster Is Scary

podcast Aug 29, 2023

Teacher Trauma: When Your New Class Roster Seems Unfair

We’ve all been there: glancing over your class list and thinking, “Really? Another year of uphill battles?” If you've ever felt like you drew the short straw with a class filled with "special circumstances", join the club! 

It's well known but rarely acknowledged that the teachers with the most solid track record in classroom management (i.e. the ones who rarely send their students to the office) get a disproportionate amount of students with behavior challenges in their class. Likewise with high maintenance parents. If you are skilled at working effectively with demanding parents (and by "skilled" I mean, again, that you resolve the issues yourself without involving admin) then, again, you will find a disproportionate amount of these parents on your class roster when compared to your teammates.

While that does seem intrinsically unfair, unfortunately it is the reality for many teachers and a major cause of teacher frustration and teacher burn out. And while I don't have a magic wand to fix this, keeping these five tips in mind can certainly help.

1. Evaluate Past Comments with a Grain of Salt

Ever read a movie review and thought, “Were we even watching the same film?” Just like movie tastes, interpreting student behavior can be subjective. When you come across those (sometimes scathing) notes from previous teachers, take a step back. Remember, experiences vary. Before letting a comment color your perspective, consider its source. Maybe the student had a challenging year, or perhaps the teacher did. We all know that students behave differently for different teachers. Maybe you have more consistent classroom management skills than the previous teacher (that's likely why they ended up in your room).

2. Every Student Deserves a Clean Slate

Picture this: it’s a new year, and you have the power to hand out golden tickets to a fresh start. Every student eagerly awaits theirs. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t love the magic of new beginnings? Regardless of their past, every child deserves to step into your classroom without baggage from yesteryears. So, welcome them with open arms and an unmarked slate. It's not just about giving them a chance—it's about proving second chances work! Maybe the student matured over summer. Maybe they have been separated from other students who just didn't "mix" well with them (or more likely, encouraged their antics). Either way, every students deserves a clean slate in your room. Expect the best of them, and in many cases they will rise to the occasion.

3. Embrace the Challenge (and Growth) of Challenging Students

Remember that insanely hard puzzle you once completed? Sure, it was a brain teaser, but oh, the satisfaction after! Similarly, challenging students can often be the puzzles of the teaching world. They might test your patience and push boundaries, but they also stretch your skills and enrich your teaching toolkit. When I look back over two decades of teaching, it is the students who were most challenging that I remember the most. Not just because they caused me to grow, but because, ultimately, they were the lives I impacted the most. They were the students who needed a calm, consistent, caring, positive teacher who believed in them the most. 

4. Remember: It's a Countdown, Not a Life Sentence

On those particularly tough days, when you’re convinced the universe is playing a prank, remember: it's a 180-day gig. The students who make you pull out your hair today will be replaced by a fresh batch next year. Every academic year is a chapter, and while some might be more challenging than others, every story moves forward. So, keep everything in perspective, change is the only constant. Remember, if your challenging student has younger siblings coming up the pipeline, be sure to give them a clean slate. 

5. Mind the Stories You Tell

Narrative has power. The story you spin in your mind shape your reality. Think of yourself as the author of your story, where you hold the pen. When faced with challenging situations, you can either paint yourself as the victim or the resilient hero. "Why do I always get these students?" is a disempowering thought. "This student was given to me for a reason" is a more empowering one. Remember, every time you repeat your stories in your mind, in the staffroom, and at the dinner table, you are reinforcing that narrative and that reality. While the challenges are tough, so are you. The impact you have is real, and you may be the only positive bright spot in a student's life. Focus on that. And if you need to check the days off in your planner like you're counting down a prison sentence, so be it. 

Educator Friend, are you ready to take back control of your time and energy? Do you need a CRASH COURSE in:

  • Overcoming your blocks setting healthy boundaries?
  • The exact steps and scripts needed to "say" no in a student-focused way to demanding administrators and parents?
  • How to set boundaries with your teacher besties who interrupt your prep time?
  • The ULTIMATE boundary playbook with scripts for every situation in your educator life?

I GOT YOU! Give me 90 minutes - I'll give you results!


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