Most teachers have a less-than positive relationship with difficult students—although it isn’t always evident to those around them.
Indeed, the teacher may not yell, scold, or berate them in front of their classmates, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t resentment churning under the surface. It doesn’t mean the teacher doesn’t secretly hope they’d move out of the neighborhood.
Difficult students are accustomed to cold-war relationships with teachers. They’re used to the quiet tension, the heavy sighs, and the obligatory smiles. They know when they’re disliked or merely tolerated. The disconnect is palpable.
But to truly change their behavior, to eliminate disruptions, drama, and disrespect from your classroom, merely refraining from hurtful methods isn’t enough. You must cultivate a harmonious relationship with them, one they’ll come to appreciate and cherish.
A good relationship provides leverage.
If you don’t have a favorable relationship with difficult students, if they’re unhappy with you and dislike being in your classroom, then your ways and means of accountability aren’t going to mean much to them. They just won’t care.
Time-out means nothing to a student who resents their teacher. It means nothing if there isn’t a clear difference in experience between being a valued member of your classroom and being separated from it.
The leverage you need to compel them to behave comes from your likability and general pleasantness. When they like you and trust you, they’ll want to please you. This is the only surefire way to influence their behavior.