How Can I Get an Uncooperative Pupil More Involved in the Class?

29 November 2022
Teacher sitting alone in hallway looking pensive

I have a senior class in which one pupil with an unfortunate background, can be very uncooperative and has sworn at me in the past. Is there any way to get her onboard and get her more involved in the class? (Aarron, ECT Science)

As an ECT you need support, you should never been afraid of asking for support, there are people around you who are outstanding, chose your support wisely, don’t go for the big hitters, or the shouters, they’re often not the people who will get you where you want to go.

You do need a little support and if there is still a ‘hangover’ from the incident mentioned then a restorative meeting with somebody who can help discuss the unresolved issues might be a good starting point.

Restorative meeting

Use some questions that allow everyone to reflect and that are non-judgmental and non-threatening. Consider asking the below questions:

  1. What happened?

  2. Who felt harmed?

  3. What have you thought since the incident?

  4. How can we make it better?

  5. What is the plan for here on in?

You also need to be gently building a relationship with students who have difficult home backgrounds. You cannot expect to build trust in a week, in a month, or even three months, it may take you six months to get to a point where you really trust that student and they trust you.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get good work from the student or they can’t achieve and learn in that time but that relationship has obviously got off to a rocky start and the student must be made to feel important and valued.

Smile, speak to the student in the corridors, happen to have lunch on the same table one day, show the student you hold no grudge at all.

What happened in the past does not affect how you feel now and how you are going to treat the student.

Make your praise meaningful and specific and accept that when you praise a child it doesn’t mean very much in the first few weeks as they don’t know you.

You can also triangulate your praise by going to the students’ tutor or another member of staff that the student values a great deal and send your positive message through that channel as well.

Building trust & relationships

You must accept that this is a ‘drip drip’ approach to building relationships with children and you can’t accelerate that.

You have to be patient and there will be a few wobbles on the way but if you show the student that you’re determined to treat them fairly and be kind, but also be firm when need be, the student will slowly get the idea that the incident that was unpleasant was actually misguided.

You may even find in a few months you receive an apology from the student's own decision making.

Visit our pages for more information on the Classroom Culture train the trainer programme, our Hearts & Minds INSET, or how your school can get a Behaviour Health Check.

For more answers to your questions see our Q&A introduction page.

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