4 ways to handle a disrespectful student Blog icon

4 tips on​ how to handle a disrespectful student

4 ways to handle a disrespectful student Blog icon
4 ways to handle a disrespectful student Blog icon

How do you handle a disrespectful student? Here are some tips on how to handle that student.

What do you do when a student insinuates in front of the whole class that you are looking at his crotch? Disrespect comes with the territory. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. What are the best ways to handle a student who is out of line?

Recently I had a student who refused to put his cell phone away. I would ask and he would tell me it was a calculator. Then I would ask again then he would tell me there was no reason he shouldn’t have it out. I would ask and he would say it’s in my hoodie. THEN I asked and he said why are you looking here anyway (and motioned over his crotch)? He did this TWICE. In front of the whole class. I didn’t know what to say. I am not good in the moment. Things always hit me later. I’m a processor. I used to beat myself up about these moments. I would go home and think about how I should’ve handled that situation better. I would take them personally, I used to regret ever being human and I would tell myself I shouldn’t tell jokes and be relatable. “Teachers that are robots don’t get disrespected like this.” Have you ever thought the same?

These are some top tips for the inevitable disrespectful encounter:

Don’t take it personally– This is FOR YOU. Not for the student. How do you know if you’re taking it personally? You’ll know if you think the following thoughts: I can’t believe they’re treating me like this. How could they disrespect me the way they just did?  Why are they doing this to me? Students are NOT thinking about you, which is why you fell disrespected. But the fact that they are not thinking about you and your feelings should be the ultimate reason why you don’t beat yourself up about the behavior. They might be protecting their own ego or they might be projecting some other life situation on to you. Whatever it is, nine times out of ten it has nothing to do with how good of a teacher you are or whether or not you’re doing your job right. You’re a great teacher. You have great expectations. Let yourself be great.

Use humor to diffuse the situation– There are very few situations in the classroom that I can’t make a joke out of. When you run into a student who will not comply if you can find a way to reprimand them through a joke you will win. Humor automatically brings the student down a notch and usually causes them to let their guard down. “Johnny who you texting? Your girlfirend?” Works everytime.

Reiterate expectations– A student keeps getting up without permission, or they have their cell phone out or they are currently doing one of the million things that you have told them a million times not to do. It is very helpful to approach the student and ask, “Are you supposed to be doing x, y, and z?” Sometimes if the student is really smart aleck-y they will give you an excuse to rationalize their behavior so then you ask does it matter? Most of the time turning it onto them to be accountable levels them out. Problem solved.

Kill them with kindness– This is my favorite. It is basically modeling expectations. If a student gets SUPER out of hand I often remind them that I have never approached them that way. Tell your student that you are held to the same standards they are. If you show them that you don’t deserve that kind of treatment they will correct their ways. Don’t sink to their level. Be kind. It is very hard to be mean to someone who is super nice to you.

I am going to say it again because it was so good, “…it has nothing to do with how good of a teacher you are or whether or not you’re doing your job right. You’re a great teacher. You have great expectations. Let yourself be great.” Be reminded of that good friend.

What was your worst, most disrespectful classroom moment and how did you handle it? Share so that everyone else knows they’re not alone.




  1. Three out of the four tips you suggested I have done and yes they do work.

    Teaching is not easy. I have to deal with a lot of students who are not expected to do much in school and so they do not perform well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s