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Teaching Tips & Tricks   |   Feb 16, 2013

Should the toughest kids be assigned to the best teachers?

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Should the toughest kids be assigned to the best teachers?

By Angela Watson

You know exactly which kids I’m talking about here–their faces appeared in your mind’s eye as soon as you read the blog post title.  These are the kids who are violent and relentlessly disruptive in class, the ones who have a reputation throughout the school as being incredibly difficult to handle.

Each spring, the teacher’s lounge is filled with speculation over who will get each of those kids the following year…and in many schools, it’s a highly predictable pattern. The teachers with the best classroom management skills get the toughest kids. And every year, those teachers say, “I don’t know if I can take another class like this one. I need a break. I can’t keep doing this year after year.”

Sometimes the principals listen and spread out the toughest kids among multiple classrooms in a grade level, but many times, they don’t, and the teachers who used to be amazing become mediocre because they have nothing left to give. They stop researching new activities in the evenings because all they have the energy to do at night is sleep. They show up at school early to plan meaningful learning experiences, and then get so disgusted with breaking up student fights all morning long that they put on a movie in the afternoon and call it a day. They don’t have the energy for the hands-on activities they used to do, so they pass out worksheets.

Should the toughest kids be assigned to the best teachers?

I’m not saying that response is right. What I’m saying is that it’s happening, in thousands of classrooms all across the country. Our best teachers are burning out from bearing too much of the burden. I understand the need to place students with the best possible teacher for them. The problem is that teachers with strong classroom management skills often feel like they are being punished by getting the most challenging students year after year after year. It doesn’t matter that it’s not intended as a punishment. It feels that way when your job is knowingly made 100 times harder than the job of your colleagues simply because “you can handle it.”

What happens when you can’t handle it anymore? And what happens when the grouping of students interferes with the entire class’ education? I can think of two years in particular during my teaching career when I considered it a miracle that the rest of the class learned anything because my attention was so focused on the third of the class who had constant meltdowns. It absolutely broke my heart to see some of my sweet, hard working kids get less attention and assistance because I had to spend every spare second heading off their peers’ violent outbursts. No child should go to school each day in fear of being harmed by other kids in the class, or be unable to get the individualized learning they need because the teacher is constantly attending to severe behavior problems.

I don’t know of any clear cut solutions. I’m wary of principals burdening brand new teachers with students they know will be challenging–the teacher attrition rate is already astronomical. Some of these kids are so challenging that a new teacher would probably leave the profession before the year is out.

I also don’t want to see high needs students suffer under the leadership of a teacher who is unable to handle them. Maybe schools need to provide more professional development to teachers so they are equipped to handle a wide range of student needs and behavioral issues. It’s rare that a district acknowledges how much classroom management issues interfere with student learning: PD in most schools is centered around improving test scores and implementing curriculum. I did work in one district that allowed principals to identify teachers who struggle classroom management skills and provided extra training through CHAMPS, which is an excellent program, but the change in those teachers’ classrooms was negligible. Without ongoing, individualized support, the results are not going to be transformative. And some kids are just so disruptive that all the PD in the world is not going to prevent the average teacher from being exhausted by 9 a.m. on a daily basis.

Is the solution to get rid of teachers who aren’t able to handle their students? How would we identify those teachers in a fair way? Many of them are not “bad” teachers and are perfectly capable of educating the majority of the student population, they just aren’t prepared to manage the type of kids who throw desks when they’re frustrated and threaten to stab any adult who dares to correct them. Let’s be real: some of these students have no business being thrown into a general education classroom with little to no support. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the teacher for not being able to handle such extreme behaviors in addition to, you know, actually teaching the other 29 kids in the class.

So maybe this brings us to the heart of the issue: schools need to figure out how to meet  these tough kids’ needs, instead of tossing them in the classroom with teachers who are expected to manage on their own. These students deserve small class sizes, psychological counseling, ongoing social skills/coping strategies support through small group sessions with the school guidance counselor, and so on. Some of these students even need individual one-on-one behavioral aides. But these resources take money, and schools just don’t have it.

Where does that leave us? If all outside factors–teacher training, special services, class sizes, and so on–stay exactly the same, what should principals do? Should all the toughest kids go to the teachers with the best classroom management skills? How does this work in your school?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. No, no, no. They exhaust any teacher, so why should one teacher have a large group of these students, while others at that grade level don’t have any. Your comment about the other students in the class missing out is a really important one. Maybe the teacher with the best classroom management shouldn’t actually get any of these tough kids, but have some time & space available to help other teachers at their grade level support and manage these kids in their own classrooms. I’m fortunate, I teach in Cambodia, and probably the worst problems I have to deal with are kids who just cannot sit still and focus on tasks for more than about 5 minutes at a time, or kids with learning difficulties that we don’t have access to assessment facitilities for to determine the best ways to meet their needs. Occasionally I get a kid who doesn’t really care about learning, but that is more because they are immature than anything else. My hat goes off in respect to teachers in 1st world countries where kids have all the rights and teachers, who are responsible for teaching and training the next generation of politicians, doctors, lawyers, teacher, engineers and all other professional as well, as paid less than middle level administrators with no-one’s lives in their hands. Let’s spread the challenge equally among all teachers, and provide them with the support they need.

    1. So true! I like the idea of spreading the challenge equally among all teachers and to provide support, whether from the principal, counselors, and Special Ed department.

  2. This is why, 6 years ago I left the classroom. I became a special Ed teacher so I stayed in education, but the burn out of class after class of tough kids was too much. I love special ed and am glad I made the switch but it would have been easy to leave education all together and head to law school.
    After leaving I tried to advocate to not out those tough kids in the same room year after year, but despite my efforts it frequently happened.

    1. This is the problem I am having, and I’m a Special Ed teacher! My class is labelled as resource room, but they are giving me students that have severe behavior disabilities with little to no support! I’m being treated like a self-contained classroom when the majority of my students only have SLD. I can see why SpEd has a higher burnout. I’m going to be finishing my 4th year teaching (only second in SpEd) and I am so over it. I am not equipped to handle the struggles I face every other day.

      1. I totally get what you mean! I’m a 2nd year teacher (both years in resource) and I’m exhausted!! We seem to get so many students with severe behavior issues. I’ve gotten pretty good at handling them, but it is at the expense of my very at risk (academically) students who need me just as much. It’s like I either teach my low kids, or do a room clear to handle an out of control kiddo. I love my job, but I am already so tired…

        1. I think that it’s sad that Special Ed teachers are leaving the profession. I think that we mainstream teachers need to know EXACTLY what special ed teachers are responsible for, since at least at our district, it’s a mystery! I know that I had a colleague (big teddy bear kind of teacher) who taught a Special Day Class for the severely disabled and he was attacked by a student. He retired at the end of that year. So sad! On top of this, the hiring of special ed teachers is not getting done.

  3. I will be very interested to read the comments on this post. I truly believe that schools need to invest more in school psychologists because truly some of these really difficult kids need emotional services that regular classroom teachers are absolutely not equipped to handle, nor is it reasonable for them to do so with a class full of other kids. I don’t know the perfect solution, but I do know that expecting the testing results that principals and districts want is not possible when you have a students who you can’t even get to pick up a pencil for fear they’ll stab you with it (joking…sort of).

    1. One of my colleagues got stabbed in the arm by a student with a pencil! Nothing happened to the student and she retired! If this happened to me, I wouldn’t bother with administration and a referral. I would call 911. It’s getting ridiculous in some classrooms!

  4. So true!!
    I was just saying to my hubby last night that I need to go in on Tuesday morning and pass out ‘appreciation’ notes to my lovely hard working kiddos because they are not getting the attention that some of the others are getting.
    I am so torn about how to spend my time, do I sit with the student who is having a meltdown throwing books, or should I read with my 3 grade level below reading level group, or do I carry on and teach the majority of my class (my “Bs”) and ignore the outliers? I’m all for differentiated instruction but the behaviour challenges are what is killing me!

    1. I feel you. I teach 6th grade and I have an unusually tough group this year. out of 26 students I have 7 that are constantly interrupting and disrupting. Not to mention the below level group that actually NEEDS me. This is my 3rd year teaching…I am in no way a veteran…and this class is giving me a run for my money, I’m only 31 and there is no way I should be as tired and upset as I am every night. All of the fun things I had planned as far as field trips and interactive hands on activities have to be invariably canceled because there are many students that cannot handle it, and that frankly I cannot trust in a situation outside of the school building. I see students no longer trying, a blatant lack of respect for adults, and an attitude of “why do we have to do this” I teach history and do all I can to make it come to life with projects, role plays, tactile and kinesthetic activities but so much time is lost on behavior management. I love what I do, and I wouldn’t trade my job for anything in the world but if we had a little more support in the behavior department and more people in the school equipped to handle behavior issues we would be in better shape.

      I work in a private school, there are 2 classes on a grade level and there are no funds for extra personnel in the building. I feel that although many parents want their children to have a private school education they are doing them a great disservice by not putting them in a public school where they could be getting the services they so desperately need. As the blog said, instead of constant professional development about common core and state tests we should have professionals come in and tell us how to handle the kid who flips a desk when he’s mad or sits and cries because they just don’t ‘get it’, or gets so angry at me that he is milliseconds away from hitting me. We’re asked to be so many different things as teachers-parents, nurses, psychologists, or just an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on-but we cannot do it all on our own.

      1. Jen, I too am a history teacher and I also see the exact same things you are seeing in class. However, sadly, I am seeing them at the high school level. At my public school there is a very high level of blatant disrespect for adults and any and all kinds of authority, and a constant questioning of “why do we have to do this?” with all levels of students. I have been fortunately blessed with a very small and very talented class at the end of the day, so usually my day ends with happy thoughts and amazing ideas coming from these kids. BUT, it’s the middle of my day that leaves me tired, wringing my hands, and wondering what it is that I can do to get the information through AND how to survive until June.
        My mother warned me not to go into the teaching profession. She was getting out at the time. I thought it was just that she was tired and ready to retire. Little did I know how many times I would hear her words echo in my ears in the first 3 years of my teaching career!

    2. I totally get what you are saying and I am in the same boat. I have been teaching for 15 years now, and this year is by far my worst. I have three very high needs students in my room, with little support. These three kids take up all my time and all my attention, and it is definitely not fair to the other seventeen kids in my room. There are many days when all I can do is damage control and get very little actual teaching done. I have a headache every day and go home exhausted because of all the stress I am facing this year.

  5. After teaching for 18 years I have had these kids. I have had these classes. I have been the teacher who gets the majority of extremes. I have wanted to leave education all together. I have had years when I didn’t know if I would make it to the end.

    This year, I have a great group of kids, except for the one. This is the first time I have feared that one of my students might be so extreme, that one day I will turn on the news and he will be the face behind a Newton-like massacre. He is not getting what he needs to be emotionally and psychologically healthy. Who do we blame, parents, school, or doctors? I don’t know, but it is way more than one class getting or not getting attention. It is way more than one teacher getting burnt out. I feel like as a member of society that I have a responsibility to fix this but I don’t know how. I even know that the resulting tragedy of this child’s life will not be within this school year. I see it. I know it is coming. I watch the random outbursts. I reward the rational behavior. And praise the good things. Then I watch the insanity happen again.

    The other teachers who have had him and who know him (because they are close by) all look at each and say he is insane. The principal, the counselor, and the school psychologist all know and see it too. Yet it goes on day after day. Sure, I can handle it for 3 more months, but what are the repercussions for society in the future?

    1. Shannon, I feel terrible for you. I think it shows great wisdom to worry for his future beyond how it affects you and the kids in your classroom. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision. These children need emotional help before we can think about educating them. Maybe it’s lack of funding or whatever, but we do such a disservice when we don’t get these kids the help they need.

    2. Shannon, I agree with you! I had a student one year that explained to me how he killed his animals at home, and how he buried them. Yet, the school knowing this did not feel he needed help. I feel that we see early signs of trouble, and it is ignored. Its really sad to me that we do not provide these children with more help. I think of the school shootings in our country, and wonder why those kids where not identified earlier as having emotional problems. I think we need to invest more in school psychologist, and take teacher input more seriously.

      1. If you are that worried about your student, and believe that he poses a risk to the staff and other students and your administration is ignoring the behavior, contact the Department of Children and Families. They have to follow up, and will probably work with the student’s parents to arrange for him to get the help that he needs. So many times our hands are tied as educators – I have seen administration time and time again ignore dangerous situations because if they don’t acknowledge that there is a problem there is nothing that needs to be fixed. I recently left teaching in a public school and work for a private company now. I am so happy to no longer be involved in the public education system. So much focus is put upon the politics and the funds and the neglect of our next generation.

    3. Oh my goodness Shannon! THIS IS THE ISSUE, ISN’T IT?!!! We are expected to deal with students like this and act like there isn’t something wrong with them for fear of a lawsuit or something! What about our rights as teachers to a safe workplace and those of the other students, who deserve our all too?! It just burns me up!

  6. Thank you for this Angela! It is so frustrating as a classroom teacher to know you will probably receive certain kids because your personality and management can handle it. I thrive on educating children to the best of my ability, but when you have more than half a class with behavioral, social and emotional problems it is just too much. More teachers need to speak up and advocate for themselves and those children in need. I agree that lack of funding and focus on testing is changing our schools. It has taken the focus off the needs of children. It is hard to see these changes, but even worse to know that it will most likely not improve.

  7. The sad truth is, our society has made so many accomodations for those that are unable to conform to social standard that we have compounded the issue. We as educators have spent so much time managing behavior rather than teaching appropriate strategies no only to children, but more importantly to parents and families.
    Over the past 20 years I have seen children get tougher and tougher, but I have also seen families become less and less willing or able to provide the essentials of social interaction. Kids are immersed into a technologically advanced world that requires very little authentic social interaction.
    What we need to focus on is family/parent education. If we had more informed parents on board with our efforts, our jobs might be far more tolerable, enjoyable even.
    As an early childhood educator I believe it should be part of every program to provide family/parenting programs for all families from birth on.
    I have been one of those teachers that can “handle” those challenging students. It is a tough position to be in, but I have learned that communication, proactive strategies and brutal honesty is the best policy. Giving families tough news isn’t pleasant, but must be done if changes are ever going to be made. I would rather be wrong about a challenging child than be right and regret not doing something to help them be successful. This may require confrontation and opposition. I never can say I didn’t try.
    Tough topic, but a definite challenge to our profession.

    1. I agree with so much of what you said. We live in such a busy, fast-paced world full of instant gratification. People do not invest the needed time in teaching social skills, building relationships or just bonding with their children. Children are starved for authentic human interaction, and they get more busyness.

    2. Nicole’s comment is so… spot on. Both teachers and parents need to have that understanding. If you only read one comment, read this one, please.

  8. This is me this year. I have had three years of difficult children and the “selected favorites” of my principal have top notch classes. I am so exhausted that I KNOW I am not at my best either in the classroom or at home for my family. 🙁

  9. Thank you for posting this article. I could relate to much of it although I do not have severe behavior problems in my classroom. Rather, I have more struggling/low performing students than anyone else on my grade level. I feel totally drained at the end of the day and have trouble staying awake at night. I know that I am not planning the way that I want to simply because I am too tired from a stressful day. I often feel that I am not giving enough attention to the rest of my class because I have so many needy students. Many days I feel that no matter what I do it makes no difference and it is very difficult to stay positive. In addition, my evaluation rests on the growth of these students. If they do not make the expected growth I am “ineffective” no matter how hard I have worked.

  10. I hear you loud and clear Angela!! What a great topic to tackle!! I believe that when admin places all of the difficult students with teachers who display exemplary classroom management skills, it only shows how poorly the admin is at the school.

    “Difficult” students should be spread out and those teachers that have the skills should be running PD workshops for teachers who need to build on these skills. Part of being an effective teacher is being able to manage a classroom full of children. When admin places that kind of pressure on their best teachers, they are risking far more than just losing great teachers!! They are risking ALL students scores dropping because they will have pushed their good teachers out of the profession or to other schools. Burn out is so common & incredibly sad!!

    Here is what should be done.. haha
    If admin insists on clumping problem students, then 100% support needs to be provided for those teachers to do their job effectively. They need to provide those teachers with full-time staff to help and implement a “ZERO-TOLERANCE” policy for extremely disruptive behavior. They need to give those teachers 100% support and backing when problem behaviors arise.

    If they spread out those students, then they need to provide continued support and professional development to those teachers who struggle with classroom management. Teachers who have mastered classroom management techniques should given the opportunity to share their ideas, techniques, and mentor other teachers through PD and workshops.

    I am sorry to write this next thing, but it needs to be said. If a teacher is still not able to manage his or her classroom after 5 years (with training and support of course) and can not handle a couple of disruptive students, then that teacher needs to be let go. Teaching is impossible when students are out of control and no ONE teacher should ever be given an entire class of “unruly or difficult” students just because other teachers are displaying poor classroom management skills!! It will make any teacher fail at his/her job.

    I am always sad to see great teachers burn out due to years of really difficult classes!! I don’t care who you are or how good of a teacher you are… NO ONE, not even WONDER WOMAN, could handle a full class of strong-willed students for too many years!!

    Great topic!!

    The 3AM Teacher
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      1. I agree with you… although as a 2nd year teacher who is having to learn classroom management skills on the fly and having THE class for two years now being let go is a hard pill to swallow. I do honestly believe that there should be some PD for teachers like me who are on a learning curve. Ones that will be able to not only give me coping skills but show and teach me how to be able to manage them better, or better yet another person in my room full-time that can help would be wonderful too !! I am frustrated but not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I believe that if you had or could get a cooperative parent that would also be a huge plus!!!

  11. I am one of the teachers who has a hand picked class of “challenges” each year. This year my class is made up of 7 kindergarten students, who are a dream to teach, 14 first grade students, 4 who are Gifted and talented, 7 who speak little or no English and 1 with MAJOR behavior issues.
    The other day I was walking down the hall with the Principal and she pointed out a student who was rolling in the hall. She then told me, “That’s one for you next year.” Wow… There is something for me to look forward to!
    This is my 24th year teaching and I think that each year the management gets more difficult. I feel like I am cheating the “normal” kids in my class because so much of my time is spent managing behavior for the select few. I miss the joy of getting a new class each year. Instead I pray that next year I won’t have to teach my class how to quickly exit the classroom in the event that a student becomes a threat to them.

    1. I have been teaching for 17 years and I have been hearing about the same escalating problem for the entire time. teaching was my second career so I had a very different perspective thn mny new teachers but I quickly realized that the “system” refuses to address the growing problem of children who are mentally ill because it “infringes” on their rights. I told my principal that I’m a teacher and not equipped/trained to handle and/or restrain students with with behavioral disorders and that I have no interest in learning. I became a teacher because I want to teach… Not because I want to be the next Mother Theresa… Period. I love teaching and I’m very good at it. I love helping children learn and i don’t mind working with difficult children, but I am not a psychologist and I won’t pretend to be because my school system is avoiding this enormous problem. I went on record telling my admin that I was not trained and unless they were willing to pay for my new degree in psychology, they had better give those students to someone who had the necessary training in order to avoid any potential lawsuits. I am unwilling to be the latest scape goat on the news who loses my career because the system doesn’t support teachers or children. Teachers have big hearts and think it is their duty to “try” to reach every student, and the system counts on our empathy to keep things status quo. Nothing will change until teachers ‘just say no!” We are not doing any of our students any favors by suffering through years of bad bevior while the only ones getting a consequence for not “meeting expectations” is the teacher and the students who have to suffer on the sidelines of a second rate education. It’s ironic that as teachers become more “highly qualified” students are receiving a lower standard of education, but that’s right, if we just get rid of the teachers wo have bad management all our problems will go away…. Right? Until teachers start to speak up and educate ALL parents about how every child is being “left behind”, refuse to do the job of a psychologist, and start standing up for the rights of ALL children to learn in a safe environment, they will continue to be run into the ground in a rigged system. As much as I love teaching, I would never recommend it to anyone as a future career until things have radically changed… And that doesn’t include me conducting professional development in classroom management (which i am highly qualified to do) for those teachers who just need to learn how to handle a few “difficult” children.

  12. I can totally relate to this, Angela! Thank you for posting this. You bring up a lot of great points. I agree, the blame shouldn’t be put on the teacher. And maybe more professional development and administrative support would be beneficial. This is my 9th year of teaching and the behavior issues only seem to get worse with each year. Maybe it’s the culture/society we live in. ???


  13. I think that it is important to alternate which teacher gets the most challenging children. It’s a cop-out to say that certain teachers have better classroom management/training, etc. As professionals, we all need to equip ourselves with a depth of management strategies. We also need to reach out to others and ask them what has worked for them in the past. If Teacher A always gets the tough children, it is a disservice to all. The rest of that grade level team doesn’t get the opportunity to grow as professionals. I think we all rise to the occasion if presented with a challenge. (If we don’t, we won’t last in this profession of ups and downs.) Do we need more resources? Yes. Do we wish we had children who are socially and emotionally prepared for school? Yes. Since we cannot change society or school funding, we all do what we can to make our classrooms the safe learning environments that they are meant to be.
    (In case anyone is curious, I teach 25 second graders- 2 with SED [severely emotionally disturbed] IEPs, 3 with academic IEPS, plus 2 gifted, 3 ESL)

  14. I’m sorry for the teachers & other students who have to deal with the disruptive students (we’ve had a student in K who picked up & desk & threw it at teacher) & I strongly believe that if a child can not meet basic requirements for classroom behavior then while we have to school & educate them they need to be in a special support or special education room. I know easier said than done with budget cuts & all & more kids needing support at times than is available. All teachers should have a mix of students rather than giving those who have better class management skills the tough ones because otherwise there is no reason for the other less mgmt skilled teachers to develop. Frustration is the mother of all invention & often we rise to the challenge only when it is presented. And sometimes you can have a really great smart student who it’s just a personality conflict & yet have a tough student who you can relate to & possibly reach not just bc of better skills but where you are that year & that they have dark curly hair & remind you of… your brother, your niece or yourself. Loading just some teachers with the tough students risks losing great teachers & not developing ones that could be great if pushed to become more.

  15. It’s sad to say, but some of these children need to be put away, not in a classroom. The least restrictive environment sometimes needs to a lot more restrictive. There are some children who do not need to be in a school period. It is only going to get worse until we start putting the needs of the many first again instead of the needs of a few. And just so you know, I’m a parent of a child who had these issues and putting him in a special school was the best thing we ever did. They straightened him out along with medication and counseling. These students do not belong in a regular classroom and need more help than they are getting. Parents need to take more responsiblilty as well. Schools should stop being a dumping ground for kids the parents don’t want.

    1. “The lest restrictive environment needs to be a LOT MORE restrictive.” Yes!
      Why on earth are we letting desk throwers and violent behavior problems into classrooms of 30+ healthy, stable children. Why are we doing this??! Do we need to fight for legislation that protects our healthy children now–to give our good kids the least restrictive environment?
      Because lets talk about how restricted my high-flyers are. My bright-eyed learners don’t get to learn because the violent behavior problems suck up all the time and resources in our school. There is nothing equitable about having these children in our regular classrooms.

      1. Parents of regular ed students need to realize their children are at a disadvantage and not given all THEY need to learn and excel because students with learning and behavioral needs have priority legal rights and mandates in the classroom. Advocacy for the rights, needs and safety of regular ed kiddos needs to become PC and not seen as discriminatory against those who unfairly disrupt the learning environment and inhibit growth potential in others. Regular ed students now need their own legal mandates and protections.

  16. Being a man didn’t help me much when I taught because that’s exactly what happened to me. I seemed to always get the absolute most difficult children all thrown into my class. Often times I was told they put so and so in my room because they thought a male figure would help. At times it was split between two of us. No extra support. Just as you stated it was mentally draining. I was the teacher known to use the most hands-on activities, but as the years passed just as you stated in your blog post I did less and less hands on and more and more worksheets. I was too mentally drained to get centers ready and have one more thing that these behavior challenged kids could cause trouble with.

    I too felt bad for the angels who tried their best each and every day and wanted to learn as much as they could. There’s only so much one teacher can do to stop desks, chairs, and other things being thrown, being hit, kicked, and watching children just run out of the room. These kids need small classes with a teacher and an assistant, guidance support, administrative support, etc.

  17. This is an issue not just for education but for society. We need to be asking ourselves as a society what kind of kids are we raising and what kind of adults will they be. Learning to attach and form healthy relationships is a vital part of development. Our preoccupation with instant gratification, postmodernism, and material things is not meeting the fundamental needs of many children. The result is an exhausting environment for teachers and students. Other growing demands on teachers make it overwhelming to know where to begin sometimes to make the most effective difference in our students’ lives.

  18. Now you see why some parents choose to homeschool… so much learning time is wasted because of kids who are violent and relentlessly disruptive in class.

  19. Thank you for writing this post! I have seen this happen several times, and it’s just not right. Hopefully this post will spread far and wide, get the conversation moving in the right direction, and possibly even cause some changes to occur!

  20. At my grade level there are just two classes and this year it is a CLASS! I realize for some that 26 kiddos in a classroom is not that many, but for us it is a lot. As well, they decided to put all of the behavior kiddos in one room and I get the oppourntity to teach all of the kids on IEPS. Let me say that the other teacher and myself are simply EXHAUSTED by Thursday. Be it figuring out all of the behavior challenges or figuring out of all of the academic needs….there is no time to just ENJOY teaching. I am planning ALLL the time. When you have 26 kids and 12 of them are on IEPS this is a problem! AND I don’t understand why there is no support given to help us out. I have advocated and as well as the other teacher ALL YEAR LONG. State Testing is coming up and we are SOO SCARED. They say it doesn’t matter since the test is not aligned to CCS, but we all know it does. We talk about the class divisions for next year….oh my! We almost need another classroom…but we all know that won’t happen!

  21. I work in the inner city, and I am that teacher that year after year ends up with those kids. I hate it! Its so exhausting, and its really not fair to the children most of all. Most of the kids should not be in the same room with each other. They need to be spread out. If the near sight of each other sets them off, they can not be in the same room. Last year, I had 13 severe behavior problem students. I was exhausted day in and day out. This year it is a bit better I only have four. But my grade partners have none.
    I think we are failing these kids by not providing them the help and support that they need. They have problems that are deeper than a reward system, and it is our job to help them become members of society.

  22. I WISH I had an answer. I am one who gets the “buts.” She’s sweet BUT she is very low functioning. He’s smart BUT he can’t stop moving, talking…etc. She can work BUT you have to stay on top of her.
    Put them all together, and welcome to my usual class. There have been years when I am just tired of being able to handle it, when other teachers don’t have to. There have been times when I resent other teachers NOT giving certain kids to one teacher in particular because he has such terrible management skills. For the record, even now in February, I can tell which of my kids were in his class last year, because they’re smart BUT they still have to be reminded to stay in their seats, walk properly in line and raise their hand not just call out, because that was never demanded of them last year. The principal complains about it, but has taken no active steps to make it change. Principals need to take an active role with demanding certain behaviors from teachers just like teachers do with kids. They also need to model it and stay on top of the teachers who are weak to raise their skills. Support the strong teachers and the weak ones, and if the weak ones really can’t handle it after a reasonable amount of support and help, they should be let go. The last problem that needs to be addressed is numbers. Budget shortfalls mean larger classes. Larger classes means everyone struggles- teachers and kids. It’s impossible for a teacher to give 1:1 help consistently when there are too many kids to serve. The best get ignored, the behavior problems get worse, and the lowest academic don’t get the maximum amount of intervention and help they need. The best teacher in the world can’t be his or her best in worsening, overcrowded conditions.

  23. Thank you for posting this article. In our school, the children with special issues are typically spread around among the teachers. We’ve all had our share of “rough” years with disruptive kids etc., and the vast majority of our teachers manage them professionally.

    However, there are those students with severe emotional disorders who (everyone knows) belong in a special placement – not in a mainstream classroom. These are the kids who are full of rage and prone to random and extremely violent outbursts. These are the students who, like powder kegs, erupt at some perceived slight by hurling books, pencils, scissors, chairs, and desks, punching, kicking, spitting, biting, and cursing. They are dangerous to other students, and to suggest this is from a teacher’s lack of classroom management skills is laughable. I had one last year that was set off by something as innocuous as me praising another student, and 23 students would have to be evacuated into another classroom almost daily.

    Whenever there is a violent attack (like CT) I wonder what these individuals were like in elementary school and if their teachers saw these behaviors early on. The problem, as I see it, is that there is not enough $ for all the resources these kids need. Sadly, more and more of these students are coming to us – neglected, angry, and violent.

  24. As a 2nd year teacher, I have to say I was given the class last year with the highest percentage of behavioral problem children on the grade level!!! I was soooo stressed out it was not even funny, I would go home and literally cry every night!! I will be honest classroom management is not one of my strong suits. I had no real support either which made the situation worse, I stuck it out not only for the kids but because I am stubborn enough to do just that. I am teaching in a new district this year with a very similar class. I am beginning to feel as though this is some weird initiation process. I do feel that all of the children should not be grouped in the same room .. I have witnessed this year, a 35 year teaching veteran quit because of a classroom full of challenging students. She is an awesome teacher and it makes me wonder sometimes. To spread those students out among everyone is a good solution, if that can be done. Some schools are small though so that may not be an option. Possibly hiring someone besides administration to help deal with those children might help. I have found that most of this behavior (not ADHD and not medicated) begins with parents who for whatever reason don’t teach their children the correct way to behave. It is truly a very frustrating situation…….

  25. I appreciate this article! What worries me, is that coming up next is paying us based on what our kids do on tests. The inequity of classroom placement is unknown to most of the public and lawmakers who are thinking this is a good idea. And I also agree that so much is dependent on family life, overcrowding of classrooms, underfunding…ah, education.

  26. I am a veteran teacher of 20+ years. At our school, we can literally point out most of the students that will climb a ladder of “certain” teachers 1st – 5th grade…..with me being the 5th grade teacher. Whether teaming with one other teacher or teaching self-contained, I don’t mind getting these students. For one thing, I give them structure that they haven’t gotten in the past – whether from other teachers or at home.
    Generally my students go to middle school with more organizational skills than most of their peers. I volunteer for these students and my administration are glad to give them to me – knowing I will deal with issues in my class, directly with parents, and not referring students to the office for discipline.
    I care for my students and they know it. They know that expectations are high….and if they don’t do it right the first time – they’ll do it again. It’s not surprising how many of them finally go out of their way to do it right the first time to avoid doing it over and over again.
    I send out “Welcome to My Class” notes a couple of weeks before school starts. I had one girl that told me mid-way through the year – that she cried when she got that note and found out she was going to be in my class. But she felt she could tell me now- because I had become her favorite teacher ever. These students are quick to come back and visit and tell me how well they are doing in middle school or high school.
    There has only been a couple of my former students that have ended up going back to old habits in middle school with negative consequences…..alternative school!
    Most teachers probably wouldn’t “want” these students…. and it needs to be the teachers that embrace the challenge of these students and are willing to find alternate methods to make them want to work. More hands on activities have to be used- to let them experience the need for the learning and less of rote worksheets, that are unfortunately still used in so many traditional classrooms.
    As for spreading these students out among different classes – you have to be very selective or there’s that one student that can make it difficult for the rest of the class to really meet their true potential…when so much time is spent dealing with those one or two behavior problems.

    1. You are the positive these young teachers need. I am too a veteran of 20+ years. I taught Early Childhood 3-5 and Kindergarten for many years. I am refreshed to hear that a teacher is willing to embrace a child as a child in middle school. We do need to remember, although our families are not always “ideal” kids are kids and they need to be nurtured. If not at home, but at school!
      Thank you for loving your students difficult or not????

  27. When I was a younger teacher and had a great deal more energy than I do now, I gladly offered to take those difficult students because I saw what they were doing to their teachers and fellow students. At the time I guess I had some kind of magic because I was able to turn around all but one of them in my first 10 years of teaching. However, now I’m one of the senior teachers and I no longer have the energy to deal with more than one or two truly difficult students in a class. The sad thing is, there are difficult students every year, as class sizes increase and society crumbles. This year, I have a class of 33 Kindergartners consisting of 5 extremely challenging students (requiring INTENSE vigilance on my part and a daily behavior plan) and 5 more who are moderately challenging (the type that are okay if you keep them under your thumb but would benefit from a behavioral plan if I could manage it time-wise). Lest you think my circumstance rare, I’d have you know that each of the other kinder teachers at my school has a similar class.

    My opinion is that those with behavior problems should have been placed in a “Pre-Kinder” program that would allow them to learn socialization skills, anger management skills, some degree of self-control/discipline. This way they would have been prepared to enter the learning environment where it’s not okay to grab, hit, kick or choke people; destroy materials; stand on the toilet and pee all over the room; write on desks, walls, floors, etc.; leave the classroom without permission, throw tantrums, bully others to get their way, etc.

    How, you might ask, would we identify these children coming into Kindergarten? Within the first week of school, any teacher who’s taught kinder for more than a year can readily identify those who would benefit from such a program. So one week into the school year, they could be placed in a classroom that would help prepare them and teach them the skills and behaviors they should have learned at home. For whatever reason, their parents failed to prepare them, so now it’s time for the school district to do so. It’s crucial that these children learn how to behave in society, but with the new rigorous standards and teachers’ getting merit pay based on test scores, teachers no longer have the luxury of spending time and energy rehabilitating these kids within the regular classroom setting. Perhaps those who volunteer to teach these special needs children could be rated not on how the children do academically by the end of the year, but by their social & emotional growth.
    Just a thought.

  28. Thank you for writing this post. I am a 5th year Pre-K teacher with severe sped experience; and what I see is that every year we get more and more students who need an extensive access to emotional behavior support services. However, what I find is that in our division, they do not care about the Pre-K (we are perceived as the free “daycare” , with no teaching- so far from the truth) and therefore do not want to give our students the support that we they need. Instead, these kids are bounced from class to class, until they end up in one particular teacher’s room. I have asked so many times for emotional support for certain students, but because we are not a testing grade, we are told our kids do not need support. Unfortunately many of our parents choose to ignore the fact that their child may need support or help, because they in turn feel as though they have failed as a parent. Most of our parents will tell us they their child does not act that way at home, and therefore it must be the fault of the teacher. I believe that there needs to be a large swing in how society accepts and labels people who may have an emotional issue, so that there came be more of an acceptance for help and support. Until there is a change in society’s attitude,I fear that those teachers will continue receiving those kids; and I see that I am becoming a part of this “list”.

  29. Comments and articles like this that make me question my desire to be a teacher. I am currently subbing while hoping (?) to get a job teaching in elementary next year. I read stuff like this and it frightens me. I know it is extremely hard and also know I have no clue how hard it really is because I haven’t been in charge of my own classroom yet. I feel bad as a substitute because within minutes I can tell which students I won’t have to worry about (almost ignore) and the ones which will need my constant attention. Many times I’m not able to spend an extra minute explaining to a child who needs a little help because I’m so focused on the difficult classroom behaviors and trying to keep tables from being flipped.
    I wish there could be more support for students, families, and teachers. We all need it.

  30. This is the story of my teaching career! I’m really good with classroom management, so I always get the toughest kids. By far, this year has been the worst experience I’ve had. I don’t have any energy at all when I get home. I’ve felt like throwing in the towel on several occasions this year. I’m frustrated and burned out. It’s funny because I still do care if the students are learning and I try to give my best. I know God will work it out.

  31. I so relate to your comments. I’m a first-year middle school Autism teacher, and have a child whose behavior and aggression are so bad that he is assigned a 1:1 aide. I was not told about him when I was hired, or I probably would not have accepted this particular position. Whe I was told about the child the week before school started, my facilitator actually used the words “worst case scenario” to describe him. The violent outbursts are so frequent, that two of us spend an inordinate amount of time just trying to prevent or manage meltdowns. It isn’t even any longer about getting hit, kicked, scratched, or bitten myself; it’s about my other students constanly fearful of getting physically assaulted and not getting the attention they deserve. This child is not learning a thing, and I’m at a loss as to why the school system would allow this. I guess it takes someone getting badly hurt or the other parents taking some kind of action before they will do something about it. I am emotionally and mentally exhausted by the end of the day. I don’t think I can take another year of this particular student.

  32. This is my 6th year teaching special needs in an inner city in Michigan. I have a self contained classroom with a mixture of many “labels”. My limit is 18…….and I have 20. I get those kids of whom you are speaking…….but my attitude is different. I love it! It is not only a challenge for me but i also challenge kids to see differently. my lessons are active, engaging and fun. I will admit, peer pressure in my classroom works well. We are a family and is one of us gets off track, we all pay. I have to also say that leadership in your building makes ALL the difference. I am BLESSED to have a principal that stands behind his teachers 100% and does not accept the excuse of “it’s part of his/her disability”. I’m not saying its easy………but I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

  33. I can walk into a 4th grade classroom and point out all the students who will be in my room next year. Sometimes it’s tiring. But sometimes it has its blessing. I don’t know what it is, but “that kid” that most teachers hate, end up being a totally different kid in my room.

  34. My wife could have written this. After 9 years of giving all she could, she couldn’t do it anymore. Georgia lost a damn good teacher.

  35. What a wonderful article! I always get several “blessings” and will also get them moved into my classroom during the year. I have been teaching for 13 years and I am tired. I don’t have much left for my own family and my own special needs child. I don’t get to leave autism at school, I bring it home with me. I love my students, even the ones with the issues but spread the love!

  36. I wonder how others feel about looping? Do you think the “difficult” children would benefit from being with the same teacher for multiple years? Would this opportunity allow the children to continue to develop and learn more appropriately because they have a relationship with a strong teacher they know loves/cares for them? Would the chils behave in a more cooperative way because they know what is expected and they know what the rules/consequences are? Would a teacher feel less frustrated because they aren’t spending so much time at the beginning of the year getting to know the children in their class and learning what makes them tick- positively and negatively? Does anyone here work in a school where looping is practiced? Thoughts?

    1. I have looped. I took a few ADHD with me and I have to say it is definitely easier the second year because I don’t lose a month of evaluating and getting acquainted. I deliberately kept a child who was generally not enjoyed by others because of his impulsivity leading to trouble. With me, because I knew him so well, I had almost zero problems. He knew I liked him and I have strong management skills on my class. From day 1 I got to say, “you know what to do, do it.” to the whole class. That included about 6 new kids to the ones I’d already had, and they were pretty instantly absorbed by the “old” ones. I looped 3 times a few years apart each time. I did K-1, 1-2, and 2-3. I enjoyed it at lot.

  37. I went through this last year only I was the new teacher. We had an extremely difficult 3rd grade class across all 4 rooms but I had the 2 worst by far. The most physical and the most extreme case. My extreme would swear, steal, throw things, hurt others, bully, any and everything you can think of he did. It didn’t matter what I tried, where I sent him nothing worked. My principal didn’t even know what to do with him. My physical student actually made improvements during the year, except when the other one was around him, and I was so proud of him. I left that school after sticking out the year and I am now looking for another teaching job. The administration knows these kids and there has to be a better answer to this problem!

  38. Give me all those kids. Give them to me all day long. had them in school as a “Teaching Law To High School Students” class in 1985. I got the “bottom teir” High School. My students had limited reading skills and the curriculum was not geared to their abilities or needs. I spoke w/the Professsor and had her come to my class and speak w/my students. She agreed v/my asessment and allowed me to teach them about the legal implications of everyday decisions, “I want to search your car/house”, my girlfriend is pregnant, checking/savings accounts, rental agreements, creditcards etc. the stuff that you need to know when you get out of High School but nobody tells you! Now, in order to teach the same highly successful curriculum I need to go back to a 4 yr college and take two years of undergraduate classes in Education. My Students congratulated me with a t-Shirt that could not be bought but only earned, it said: ALBUQUERQUE HIGH IS NUNMBER ONE! The fact that many individuals like myself can teach in colleges but not below and that half of a teachers four years in college is devoted to education classes not the core subject they are going bto be teaching in is why our education system is in decline. Use your resources, Let us old Doctorates teach the young!

    1. The kids I have today are not the kids from 1985. They are needier, lower functioning, have far less parent involvement, and the behavior problems are much more extreme and more frequent. Low functioning kids are not the biggest problem. I don’t have a lot of frustration with my bottom tier of students. Larger classes + more behavior problems + lower academics with higher expectations, does not equal success, but puts increased stress on even the best teachers.

  39. Your article cheered me up. At least I’m not alone to have this problem. After 25 years of teaching, I feel like quitting because any effort I made seems useless. Unfortunately no one cares!

  40. This is an article that really hits close to home for me. I feel like, however, my job is to love the unlovable. I DO feel for the “good” kids, BUT I notice that the “bad” kids are the “needy” kids. Their home lives are not like what my children experience and I just cannot bring myself to label them. Am I tired at night? YES. Did I get a rough combination? YES. Was it an unfair distribution? YES, but complaining about it will not change things as far as I’m concerned. Of course, there are days when I feel like I just cannot go back, but then I look up! The second part of this is when do we make the parents accountable?

  41. I have to say that it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. As a veteran teacher, I and some fellow teachers are constantly being told that “we can handle it” and that “we are the child’s last chance”. I am always rearranging seating arrangements in my classroom to combat potential behavior problems. I still plan hands on activities, but have to make sure that I position myself closest to “those kids”. And, even though, I am reassured that I will have support, I don’t feel that way.
    One thing I have to do early on is make parental contact to let parents know I am on their side, many times I am the first positive contact they’ve had in a while. This helps me set the stage with the kids, they know that I’m not going to give in to them and let them run they show; this makes it easier for me when I have to send a referral because I can show that I’ve tried with them.

  42. Great post! I am one of those teachers who has become exhausted. School districts cannot hold on to good teachers because of this exact occurrence. Although it is a compliment, it also is the beginning of the end. I do not blame great teachers when they decide for their own well-being they must leave the profession. It’s sad. It’s a shame. But, I empathize immensely with their courage to know when enough is enough and finally put themselves first. In order for this cycle to stop, all teachers need to have strong behavior management, PD, mentors, and support in order to help these types of children and create a positive, nurturing work environment where teachers can grow and be challenged without exhaustion. Ill be praying on this educational issue

  43. No one would have passed Michael Jordon the ball if they didn’t think he could make a basket. Yes it’s exhausting, yes it’s fustrating, but I think soldiers fighting a war have it tougher, even child birth was worse than the worse kid I’ve dealt with. I’ve been kicked and a chair thrown at me. I don’t give up on them, after all, we are the adults here, not them. I spend hours researching better ways to get through to them. If I see 25 students and 5 are struggling…That 5 should get more attention. The other 20 “get it”. They understand there is a weakness among their class and everyone should be coming together to strenghen the weakest. Peer help is an option. Students love to help and are more willing to listen to a peer. Everyone I hope remembers their own childhood and education. I hear quotes come out of my mouth from my past teachers, grandmothers and mother when I’m trying to get through to a struggling child. Try and stay on the positive side of it. Remember the defintion of insane is, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We need to support each other better. Don’t give up. If your own school won’t support you, than reach out to the internet, it’s overflowing with resorces. Pinterest is a great place to go for one stop inspiration. It’s not all about lectures and worksheets. You may be the only person in that childs life that ever really cares. The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.

  44. This is my youngest daughter who is 7 and in first grade…She has a wonderful teacher that she was purposely placed with because she could handle her…with HELP. I had to fight to get an IEP for her because my daughter is at the top of the District in Math (Doing division in 1st grade and also 5th grade reading) After a horrible Kindergarten year we had to fight and dig our feet in to get her help on many fronts and to make sure the teacher had assistance for those “Bad” days.. We come from a family of teachers all who have had the worst and the best classes. We have plans A B and C in place to assist the teacher with administration help. The answer is not JUST the teachers but the Parents and also finding affordable mental health therapy and care so that everyone is pointed in the correct direction…and trying to get help before the situation becomes much much worse. We have had extensive testing done because the administration was just washing thier hands of her and wouldn’t assist us. $6000 more in debt and we know more in the process. PLEASE don’t look at “Handling” these problem students as punishment but rather know you CAN make a difference in a little life. It will be a long haul for this sweet little girl that cant process so many emotions when she is overwhelmed. We will not stop trying to make a difference for her and any other child in our community… There needs to be a plan in EVERY school for assisting with these matters and actual follow through. It does take a community of help and we are just realizing this as parents that it will be a long painful process that we are hoping in time diminishes to feed this bright, loving, sensitive girl in a word that is often unfair. Bless you all

    1. I’ve been on both sides of special needs children (teaching and parenting). I have had far more frustration with getting my own child services and finding information that is accurate and useful, than dealing with any child in my class. I CAN handle special needs kids with no problem, as long as my class is not overcrowded. The problem comes with having several special needs children in the class with minimal or no support from the administration or special ed resources that are supposed to be in place. The largest problem is that of the several children who have special needs, there are few with IEP’s because their parents refuse to allow them to be tested or to get services.The children with IEP’s are not a problem for me, because it means there’s parent support AND services. I wish you the very best with your daughter, and hope that you continue to have supportive teachers. Parents like you are a teacher’s dream, because we never feel that we’re the child’s only advocates. We can be partners.

  45. A lot of food for thought here. I understand school organizations vary from country to country, and here in France the way we make classes and appoint teachers is probably different. But the bias is quite similar, and the difficult kids certainly can be found everywhere. The big hypocrisy in the institution and in the political system consists in telling parents: “No problem, your child will be fine with us, we can handle the situation” instead of speaking the truth. Of course it is not politically correct to tell them: “In fact your kid is a nuisance for the rest of the class, why don’t YOU try homeschooling?”. As if the governments asked us not only to teach teachable students, but also to keep the wild ones inside for fear they misbehave outside.

  46. I teach kindergarten and am experiencing this frustration because we take parent requests at my school. I don’t have a problem with that, but one of my collegues goes out and “recruits” to make sure she gets the “cream of the crop”. She also has our pre-k teacher to tell the parents of bright students from good families to request her. This has gone on for about 4 years, so now the general conception in our small community is that she is the best K teacher because all of her students go on to the high group in 1st grade. I never have and never will ask anyone to request me, so I end up with the poor little pitiful kids. I have 19 students this year, and all are fee waived. The “high class” has 20, and only 4 are fee waived. I love all of mine dearly and wish I could take most of them home with me instead of where I send them to at the end of each day, but I am so frustrated I am in tears most days by lunch. There just isn’t enough of me or time in the day to meet their needs. I have 4 that are capable of learning the K curriculum with regular classroom instruction. The rest need one-on-one, and I just can’t get it in during the day. I have gone to administration crying and begging for help, but it falls on deaf ears. This is my 18th year of teaching. My 1st job I taught 4 grades a day for 6 and a half years at the smallest school in our state, so it isn’t that I’m not capable or just inexperienced. I’m at my wits end and so burned out that I’m going to request a transfer or move to a different school system.

  47. I know that I received a student that was a behavior challenge in kinder, while his other classmates went to the other first grade teacher. He is still a challenge, but his mother and I have worked really hard to get him focused and working. I’m fortunate that his mother is involved.

    I have been fortunate that I haven’t had super difficult students, but I know that the difficult ones are sent to me. Students who are mainstreamed into the class and haven’t been identified for special education (RSP and the like) are the ones that make it really difficult for the rest of the students. I’ve seen many of my colleagues deal with this challenge and I don’t know how they do it. There are students who crawl under the tables and chairs all day, who hit other students, who hurt the teacher physically, who have issues with bodily functions, and who are just not behaving appropriately. These are students that should be in a different environment.

    We have a behavior management program that works for most students, but not for those listed above because it is beyond them. We write referrals when a student does not follow our expectations and send them to the counselor. The counselor then counsels and contacts the parents. Ultimately, the parent needs to be more responsible for their child’s behavior and acknowledge that their child is not behaving in an acceptable manner. Teachers get so much blame for student behavior yet we need to accept that they are not OUR children in the end. We are here to teach them academics and offer ways to behave in society, but again, we are being told to take over the duties of parents.

    Is it fair to get rid of teachers who aren’t able to handle their students? It’s fair if they’ve been given training and the principal has been there to help and they are still having difficulties. Otherwise, no! That’s not fair. It is the administration’s job to make sure that it’s employees have all they need to do their job. If the students and teachers are facing dangerous situations because of this child, it is the administration’s responsibility to get that child out of there. Why does the majority of the students have to suffer because of one child? Teachers NEED the administration’s help and support when facing parents as well. There are parents who do not want to acknowledge that their child needs help.

    If schools don’t have the money or resources, then unions, parents, and teachers need to demand them. Wouldn’t we rather use the resources at the beginning of a child’s life than later, for prison expenses? Because that is where these students will end up if we don’t take care of it at the beginning.

  48. I always find it frustrating that the same teachers get the “difficult” ones year in and year out too. If a teacher is known to not be able to handle “difficult” students I like your idea of training them so they can. Spread the wealth and give some a break!

  49. This is so spot on. I have been teaching Kindergarten for 7 years. Every year I had the children that they didn’t know what to do with. They didn’t start in Special Ed because the parents hadn’t had them in programs or anything. The first year, the child was just disruptive. Wondered around the room while I taught, or would go to the kids and start to take their crayons. She was sweet, and I did the best I could with her with no help from administration or sped until she was finally through child study and put into sped in MARCH! From then on the admin would give me any kids coming who they knew the older siblings were issues, unidentified sped, or ones that were “off” at registration. I had all sorts of things going on in my room and was still trying to teach the other kids. They actually at one point took 3 sped kids off my homeroom roll, but nobody ever came to aide them or help me. I kept getting new kids because of my “low number”. I am a very organized person and managed to still do my job. I would walk down the hall and see the sped line and by the time I had taught K for 5 years, half the kids in the line started with me. Then came the YEAR. I got a child they knew was out of control. He actually head-butted me in the stomach so hard I had to go to the doctor. I finally had him manageable and then administration moved a violent child into my class in February because his teacher was having to go to therapy from dealing with him. He threw desks and me and the children. The threw scissors at me. He threw dirt, rocks, his shoes at me. He ran at me and pounded my body with his fists. He threw a pot of hot coffee he grabbed in the office at me. He scratched teachers arms, punched the AP in the face and ripped her hair out. He was never suspended. Meanwhile the child that was already in my room retroverted to his old behaviors. So I was getting assaulted weekly and the police were coming for the other child who was trying to run off school grounds. Finally the new student ended up tearing my rotator cuff and laberum in my shoulder. I had to have surgery to repair it. Did I ever tell admin I didn’t want him? Yes. DId they care? No. They kept saying that I was so good and had such great management skills that I could handle it. I can’t handle it anymore. I changed me. It robbed me of an entire summer with my own children. There has to be a way to hold the children who behave this way responsible or give them the resources they need and keep the kids and adults around them safe. The parents have to be held responsible when their children hurt people, but they aren’t.

    1. One of my co-workers just got a child like this. He’s been at our school three days and admin has had to come and get him several times because he’s been out of control and violent. The second day, admin called his mother who simply came and insisted on taking him home instead of sitting with him in class.

      Most teachers I know aren’t aware of the fact that, when a student hits/kicks/punches/pulls hair/bites/scratches/attacks them, the teacher can call the police and press charges for battery. As educators, few of us would ever consider doing so because we feel that it’s not in the best interest of the child. HOWEVER, if no one else is going to address the needs of these violent, uncontrollable students, then perhaps WE need to stand up and take action. It’s our responsibility to consider the best needs of our other students and ourselves. In cases like this, the needs of the one SHOULD NOT outweigh the needs of the many. If we don’t do something about it, who will?

      Now, I’m not talking about the average difficult child here, but rather those who are violent and a danger to others. Children who are out of control in the early years (preK-3rd) are not going to magically improve. They are simply going to become more out of control and more dangerous to those around them as they become bigger and stronger, UNLESS they receive the services they need to deal with their anti-social behavior and aggression. For this reason, I think that pressing charges IS in their best interest. It forces parents, the school district and the judicial system to do SOMETHING to help the child before (s)he does something unthinkable and irreparable (mass shootings come to mind).

  50. This is so me this year. I’m flattered you think my management skills are top-notch, but instead of giving them all to me, why not get the other teachers where you need them to be? There is practically NO administrative support for the behaviors these kids exhibit on a daily basis and honestly, this year, I’m done. I have a one-year old and I’m still working out the life-work balance. It was nothing for me to get to school by 6:45 and work until 6 or 7 in the evening, but that’s just not possible now, and I don’t have the energy for these kids day after day. It would be different if I were getting support and back-up from the administration, but I’m not and I’m tired of doing it all by myself.

  51. There is so much to do on this era of education. I have read all of the comments to the original post. As educators we are trained in some manner to teach and manage students. Instruction and management go hand in hand. The stories of those who believe their management skills are proactive also gave anecdotes about the level of active learning in their classrooms. A few responded about parental involvement. Only 1 gave evidence on the support of their administrator. The most powerful comment provides the solution. Professional development. The best PD comes from your own colleagues – the culture if your school is seen through YOUR eyes. Depend in each other for support. – even if your district can’t afford in service give it to yourselves. The saddest thing in education is the isolation teachers feel. Where are your mentors? What happens at your grade level meetings? And why did no one mention support from your unions? If you are being hurt in your classroom incident reports must be completed. Assault is assault and it changes the climate if your classroom and your building’s collegiality. This changes the impact you can have in educating your students. No one should ever be subjected to physical hurtings by a child.
    Through response to intervention – a national mandate- academics and BEHAVIOR must be monitored, evidence gathered, observations by counselors or school psychs completed, testing done (one doesn’t have to be spec Ed to get some testing done), parents must be notified each and every time students behave in such ways. Your principals must take these students out if your classrooms- in school suspension is a temporary stay for all involved. Know this too, educators , the federal Dignity For All Students Act -DASA-comes into play for the children who SEE this behavior. There is so much that can and should be done. Please become informed about Dignity for all students Act and your districts policy on response to intervention. RTI is NOT a spec Ed initiative. The data that is brought forth in RtI meetings is to help each student at risk. AND the teacher through the good sharing of strategies.
    Parents must be called in
    Data must be collected to bring forward to Rti
    Discuss these behaviors and solutions with your DASA coordinator ( every school must have one- usually your principal)
    Insist that your principal or ap take the highly of bounds student out of your classroom for long time outs or in school suspensions
    Work with your colleagues and admins to find suitable solutions to improve the climate in your class and building.
    I am a 34 year veteran teacher and administrator. Experiences like all of yours is unhealthy for the at risk student , the other children, and you. In this age of accountability we need each other more than ever before. Collaboration is of paramount importance. No one can exist in isolation- we must protect each other through proactive solutions, we must be mindful to the needs of all students , we must engage all of our resources . Without our teachers our students will not learn, they will not grow. It is time for teachers to be proud of their work as a collective entity. Together you will help these sad and emotionally torn students. You will engage all students up and down the continuum of learning and you will love them with your heart and soul just as their parents do. Give to each other , be present, and know that you are your students’ best hope.

  52. Hello!

    I think that as teachers we need to set limits ourselves. We have to stay strong and say we won’t allow certain behaviors and let those involved (students, parents, administrators, other teachers) know what we will and won’t tolerate. Bottom line… it comes down to the safety of our other students and ourselves. We have to hold all accountable to ensure that these behaviors are not tolerated. Students will continue with behavior if it is tolerated, and this applies to adults as well. Why should we bullied into having to deal with the toughest students? Administrators are ultimately responsible for the safety of ALL students. I would never allow the safety of the majority of my students suffer because of a difficult one. We have to ask ourselves, “How much are we willing to tolerate?”

  53. Yikes!
    I am a 42 year old dog learning new tricks. I am currently in my Sped portion of my student teaching. A change of career for me. I will be K-8 general and K-12 Sped.
    There are so many stories of poor administration support here! I’m now a bit frightened.
    I will say this, as a man, students with behavioral issues (EH) seem to get along with me just fine. It is up to us to realize they have bad days more frequently than general the population. I find that listening and then showing/proving strategies to help them and then accountability works. Once calm……ok, calmer…..they know what’s right and wrong.

  54. At my school we set up balanced classrooms at the end of the year. We spend about 2 hrs. on this.
    This way each classroom gets approximately the same number of challenges, male/female ratio, ELLs,
    High, medium, lows etc. Then during the summer the principal rearranges all of our work. She does not know the children and undoes all our hard work. The current principal is honoring all parent requests.
    I had 2 chair throwers this year, 3 biters and hitters/kickers, and 2 parents that were in total denial over their kids behavior. I was totally worn out by the end of the year and not a very nice person… total negative attitude. I asked for help from the principal and did not get it so I quit asking. The other teachers had several behavior problems too. I just ended up with the extremes. As a result I hated teaching by the end of the year. Then via a staff email I discovered I was moved to Kindergarten (not where I would put a teacher with major burn-out issues) and had to move classrooms. I hate that principal and pretty much hate teaching. I taught Kindergarten for 5 years…it is not my passion. I do not like the curriculum. It is just not me. I cannot transfer nor can I retire. I only have 28 years of teaching and I am too young. So I am looking for other jobs in the education field, using my summer to work on being positive, and taking workshops to try and reignite the spark. I am also saying prayers and asked to be put on a prayer chain.
    So NO do not give the challenging kids to one teacher…place them very carefully and evenly.

  55. No. They need to be spread out if there are multiple classes at each grade level. The best way to do it, of course, is to take each individual child and look at the best fit with the teacher. Some children thrive on lots of group work with lots of discussion, and others need step by step, silent, rote classes. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that kids are different! And so are teachers. The same holds true for the academic strengths of children. Each teacher should have high, medium, and low students in general education. I disagree with lumping all the kids with IEPs into one class, and having all the GT kids in another one. It’s not fair.

  56. Sadly in my school the teachers with the most years get the better behaved students and the new teachers get the discipline problems.

    1. My daughter was a first-year teacher last year. This school has trouble finding teachers; and by the time my daughter was hired, her kids had had subs for almost 3 months! She had some wonderful, amazing kids–but the disrespectful, unmanageable ones took almost all her time! They actually liked being sent to the principal’s office and/or being suspended, because that took them out of classes. Some had been suspended up to 25 times over the past two years! I do not work in the education system, but I always thought at some point these types of kids would be sent to continuation school or something. My daughter was so traumatized that she could not sleep or eat and cried every night–a few times even in class. She was about four hours from us, so she called me every night and did not want me to hang up. She stayed with it for the whole school year, then resigned.

      This year, she is in her dream school. There is a lot of parent involvement, a lot of teacher support, and she absolutely LOVES it! She can’t wait for the next day! The worst problem she has had, so far, is a few kids who are a little chatty, but they are easily managed and very respectful. We’re so happy for her! I feel bad for the students at the other school. Some have contacted my daughter to tell her she was their favorite, and they still do not have teachers for several classes this year. One former student said that she is now in honors English, because of my daughter’s teaching. (Sorry to brag–proud mom here.) Reading these posts, I see that my daughter’s situation last year was not unusual. I don’t have a solution either, but something has to be done. Those students who want to learn are being robbed of a well deserved education, so that teachers can babysit troubled youths who need special attention.

  57. This is something I experience routinely. Every year I end up with the “tough kids” and I’m told over and over, that I should have them every year because I’m so good with them. Administration, counseling, Sped, and other teachers. My stance is always – Just because I can, why does that mean I have to? And if I have to every time, how is anyone else going to learn?
    It is definitely wearing me thin. I come home frequently tired and find I am not able to do the activities I enjoy most, because of the handful of students who can’t handle them.
    I agree with your final comment – the school districts need to be providing other forms of education for these kiddos instead of just throwing them in the regular education class. But another point I keep hearing is that the laws are not written for regular students. The laws are written for the special needs students.

  58. A very difficult student was transferred out of my class today because he needed another class changed, which affected his whole schedule. I’m a little embarassed by my feelings of relief. Yes, he was driving me crazy. Yes, I had a hard time finding his redeeming qualities. But what burnt me out most was the contant worry about the other students in my class who were learning less because he was in our class. It’s all I thought about.

    I have a lot of difficult students this year and have somehow found myself labeled as a teacher who works well with difficult students. Is it ever possible to work well with them or is my tolerance just higher? Because I go home at night often sick to my stomach and not wanting to go back the next day. Surely there are teachers who work better with difficult students. I may be making it work for them but it’s not working for me. I’m burning out. I don’t like myself for being a person who is happy when a difficult student leaves my class, but when I’m given so many, how else can I feel?

  59. I am a 7th grade writing teacher and this article sings to me. I teach at an extremely low-economic school (near the Mexico border). I teach writing to 140 students, 47 of whom are LEP (limited English proficiency). I am known on my campus as the “strict” teacher. I know I have awesome classroom management. I run my class on a delicate balance of ruling with an iron fist, yet compassionate and above all, FAIR. This is both a blessing AND a curse. I’ve been teaching for 10 years and I have consistently gotten low students and behavior problems for 8 of those years. I have watched new teachers receive better students AND get praised for benchmark scores that are better than mine. This only lights my fire and in the end, I’m either neck and neck with them or surpass them. Maybe I shouldn’t do this anymore…there are days when I’m so frustrated I want to literally walk off campus and drive away, never to return. But these kids need me…they need to know structure because many do not receive it in their home life. Unfortunately, if I could’ve afforded it, I would’ve quit and gone back to school for a profession where I am respected and not as stressed.

  60. This is my 10th year teaching and have taught from 3rd grade to 9th grade. I know how draining and frustrating a tough class can be and how much energy is taken from the kiddos who need my support and praise to keep doing what they are doing. Unfortunately, this is not going to change anytime soon. I will have one difficult kid or a handful of them but it is completely unfair to place them all in one teacher’s class because they have more control. It should be obvious that the other teachers need more training and should be given it throughout the year along with support to deal with specific behavior problems. Since teachers are expected to deal with whomever we get in the school year, at the beginning, students should be evenly dispersed based on gender, academic abilities, IEPs/504s, and behavior. My 4th grade team did this last year and the teachers in 5th grade were happy because the problems were evenly spread out. No one teacher feel resentful because it’s fair.

  61. I am ones of those teachers. I have a smaller class size with students from all grades that cannot be in the classroom setting. Some days it’s a tough day in our room but we have so much love, we get through it. They know I love them and just want what is best and that is what makes us all work so well together. I would prefer for the “good teachers” to get those students and I would see it as a compliment if you get them. Why? They are the ones that understand. They are the ones the kids are connecting to and therefore wanting to learn from them. If you can make the connection with any and every student, don’t run but embrace it. There are not a lot of us and we need to stand up for as many babies as possible! We all know at the end of the day every single one of us teachers love and care. We all know we think about them all the time even when you’re on vacation. We just have to be able to let the kids see that and all your problems will fix itself out of pure love and respect. Thank you for all the kiddos all you fellow teachers are helping!

  62. I get this every year. The sad realization came to me this year that the parents in my community recognized me as the teacher with the difficult and struggling students. How can they possibly be excited to learn their kid is in “that” class. I get numerous complaints from the parents with good kids about the other kids’ behaviors. I can’t blame them, but how is that fair?

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