3 ways to earn the trust of disruptive students

With the values and opinions of students changing, tackling disruptive behaviour in class, would benefit from going back to basics. Building relationships first. Here are some tips from a mentor. 

If you’re finding that detentions and getting students to stand outside the classroom, simply does not work to reduce the level of disruption in your class; here are a few tips from a mentor. 


In today’s world, most students talk behind teachers backs’ at lunchtime or on Snapchat on the way home from school. They discuss what Google and YouTube state about how to teach and respect students learning styles. These students know that we as educators should be using detentions to give students a safe space to speak about matters that concern them.


So, is there anything you can do in your next class to earn the trust of disruptive students? There absolutely is, especially if you're prepared to go the extra mile. 


1.The Immediate Hook – Speak to the ‘disruptors’ during form time or non-teaching period, even for 45 secs after class. 


Aim: To show your concern, commitment to their learning, and ability to do well. Warning:  Eye contact and humbleness required. They may not want to speak with you! But try another day. 

Objective: To develop trust with the ‘disruptors’, show you genuinely care, and always follow through on actions set. 

Extra Mile 1: Ask the ‘disruptors’ what they want to do as a future career. With their answer (regardless of what they choose to share with you) zone in on their strengths and before the end of the year, do your very best to get an industry professional to speak via video call, about how they use similar strengths within their job/career. Encourage said ‘disruptors’ to ask a question.

Extra Mile 2: Because you're busy, ask the ‘disruptors’ to help you organise this ‘special’ guest video call. They can write the email, even be a part of the initial phone call. 

Desired Outcome: The ‘disruptors’ will thrive off the attention, involvement and give them a sense of belonging and begin engaging in class, respecting boundaries and the need for a positive learning environment. 


2. The Pandora’s Box – Implement 360 feedback in your classes, toward the end of the first half term and beginning of the third term. 


Aim: To improve the teaching, learning, and classroom experience. Inform the class that this type of feedback is also used within the world of work and helps to build effective teams. 

Warning: Ensure everyone completes it, including yourself, TA or LSA. Ensure students are aware that all feedback will be treated as confidential.

Objective: To gather the information that will help you get to the bottom of why some students are disruptive during your lesson, of which you can take appropriate action on. 

Extra Mile: With your answers create graphs and charts where all students can see a summary of the results. 

Desired Outcome: Resolution of issues or disagreements in the classroom that you may not be aware of. 


3.Working Lunch – Send out personal invites to individual ‘disruptors’ or a mixture of students to join you for a VIP lunch. Design an invite (with the help of a student you want to build a trusting relationship with) to make the invitees feel special. 

Warning: Some or all invitees may not show up. Persevere and do invite them again within a couple of weeks. Once they see you respect and 'trying' to rebuild bridges with them, they mirror your intentions and do the same (As the Narrator would say in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing ...'message')

Aim: To gather invitees’ ideas and recommendations to a topic you will teaching next term. Use the session to be your genuine, professional, and sometimes quirky self. 

Objective: Once the ideas and banter start flowing (without spoiling things) ask the ‘disruptors’ a simpler than it seems question, 'what you need to do to gain their focus in class?' 

Extra Mile: Arrange a YouTube and Snacks VIP Lunch!! 

Desired Outcome: Having one-to-one conversations with the ‘disruptors’ in a relaxed setting, building genuine and trusting professional relationships. 


I know what you’re saying, ‘we shouldn’t reward bad behaviour’. And I agree, but students these days are different. When we embrace this, prioritising building trusting relationships with those we serve, will become easier than we initially thought.


Written by Elaine Thomas, The Mentoring Lab, Founder Ceo

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