Classful

It may seem counter-intuitive, but arguments between teachers and students aren’t always total catastrophes. There are enough reasons to criticize teachers, but sometimes, arguments with their students shouldn’t be one of them. Keep in mind, everything below can be used interchangeably when parenting.

Yes, there are a lot of destructive ways to interact with students, and some forms of arguing are categorically bad, but it’s important to remember that not all of them are.

The greater world doesn’t exist in black and white, and the same holds true for our classrooms. If a child is argumentative and disruptive, a teacher may not have any other good option except to argue back.

Signs of constructive arguing:
  • Both sides are respectful
  • The discussion may be heated but it is ultimately productive
  • The teacher maintains that higher ground even if the student goes low

There is a clear difference between arguing a point that one feels passionate about and just trying to be disruptive. With the former, the teacher has a lot more latitude in their response, while with the latter, there is no other option than to shut them down. There is nothing to be gained by a teacher entertaining a student who is being disruptive purely for the sake of it.

Take charge during these types of disagreements

In cases where the child may be flexing their muscles and trying out how they can best express themselves, it’s best to tread lightly. This is a situation where you can turn around the argument to a constructive conversation and help the entire class learn how to voice their contrarian views. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion that differs from the majority, and it’s important to let your students know that they can voice their thoughts, even if the rest of the class disagrees.

From your position of power, you can validate the student’s viewpoint, even if you disagree with it. Don’t be stubborn or try to prove a point at their expense. When you approach the situation with an objective mindset and let the argumentative student know that they may have some valid points, the situation becomes better for everyone.

Don’t be overly strident; let them know you care

A disruptive student may be acting out for a variety of reasons, and there is no excuse for a teacher to ever write off a student, no matter how difficult they may be. Be sure to gently redirect the student to a more respectful manner of communication without completely dismissing them. Being able to balance open discussion with respectfulness is a skill that is difficult to master, but well worth the effort!

Sometimes students just need attention, and due to their immaturity, they might think that negative attention is better than none at all. Don’t let them disrupt the class simply to serve their selfish needs, do what you can to turn their points into a constructive conversation. Draw the rest of the class into the discussion by asking if anyone else holds a similar view. You may be surprised to learn that your students don’t always think in lock-step with parents and teachers.

No matter the situation, all students deserve to be treated with respect. Don’t let your need to look strong in front of your class allow you to diminish the dignity of one of your students. When you realize that some arguments can be easily defused with the right type of attention your life as a teacher will become much easier.

Argumentative students are often looking to get a rise out of their teachers and they will say many provocative things to succeed. It’s important to not fall into their trap; take immediate steps to defuse the situation. Oftentimes, when you ask a disruptive student to expound upon their viewpoint it will take the wind out of their sails. Don’t be afraid to turn the attention back on them and make them defend their argumentative stance.

Learning how to cope with argumentative and disruptive pupils is a skill that will serve you well throughout your entire teaching career. Don’t be intimidated by loud and bullying students, stand up for yourself and your class and work to engage in a constructive dialogue with your most unruly pupils.