Ask An Expert

New Teacher Tip: Handling Challenging Behavior Problems

Every class has its share of challenging students. If you feel frustrated with the behavior issues that you have to handle, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone—handling behavior issues comes with the job description. Experienced teachers also have trouble managing talkative students, power struggles and disputes among students. Behavior Management: A Whole-School Approach, a book authored by behavior management expert Bill Rogers, delineates how to handle tough behaviors. Typical classroom behaviors and strategies for handling them are detailed below.

Talking in Class

The nonstop talking of a chatterbox can distract other students from concentrating on their work. This is something that you can tackle by giving positive instructions and avoiding negative ones. Rather than using a “no talking” approach, direct instructions to specific students, and ask them to “remain quiet.” Follow this with a “thanks” to indicate that your request has been met. If the talking takes place while you are speaking, simply stop speaking. This works as a reminder to students that they are supposed to listen and not talk among themselves.

Power Struggle

Some students refuse to concentrate on their work and complete it as a way to pull the teacher into a power struggle. Do not fall into this trap at any time. Give students choices with consequences attached. Let them know that if the work is not completed within a specified time, they will miss free time or face other consequences. This puts the responsibility of their behavior on them and teaches them to make choices at the same time. Make sure to show appreciation to students with a smile or a “thank you,” if they make the right choice.

Arguments Galore

Students who challenge everything the teacher says or does can distract the class by forcing it to focus on secondary issues. It might be difficult not to reprimand a defiant student, however getting defensive or adopting a hostile attitude is not likely to solve the issue. Remain assertive and civil and focus on the primary issue. Repeated instances like these may require and “after class” discussion with the student to explain how the behavior spoils the relationships with you and interferes with learning time of his/her peers.


Sulking behavior is also a distraction for the teacher. This is one behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud immediately. Have a private discussion with the student as soon as you observe this behavior. You might have to demonstrate the student’s behavior and mannerisms to him in order to clearly explain his behavior. More often than not, brooding students are unable to understand that they are being rude or socially unacceptable.

Over Dependence

A student who requests assistance all the time may be doing so out of a need for attention or may genuinely not be able to accomplish the task on his/her own. Assess the reason behind the clinging habit before you address it. Try ignoring the persistent calls to look at the work for a while, and when he/she waits patiently, reward him/her by looking at the work enthusiastically. Another strategy is to have students ask their peers before they speak to you for clarification.

Given that these are the five most persistent and frustrating issues most teachers face, adopting the right strategy for handling them should ensure that you have a class that is well behaved.

New more hands on help? Here is an amazing video from the American Psychological Association for teachers looking for tips on how to deal with challenging behaviors.






3 Ways to Improve U.S. Students Standing Worldwide

The latest international report on student knowledge and success worldwide once again paints U.S. pupils in a bad light. This is not the first time American students have lagged behind their peers on the OECD PISA global education survey that tests and compares student outcomes in areas like math, science and reading. The results are really just more of the same.

While I take issue with particular parts of the test (leader China reportedly only tested students in elite schools in Shanghai), it is a wake-up call nonetheless. When it comes to American K-12 student achievement, it is not enough to be a big fish in a little pond. To really make a splash and gain international footing, a few things need to change in U.S. K-12 education. Here are just a few:

Teacher support. This starts from administration in individual schools and extends into the community at large. Parents must also respect the role of teachers in order for kids to follow suit. Unfortunately many times teachers are pitted as servants, and not put on the pedestal they deserve. Perhaps I’m biased but what is more important than imparting knowledge to our next generation? Today’s best teachers are not simply reciting facts and expecting their students to regurgitate them; the teachers in contemporary classrooms are “showing their work” so to speak by imparting the life skills necessary for students to find answers on their own and be successful citizens in other ways.

Teachers need backup from the other people in their students’ lives and from their own colleagues and superiors. Traditionally high-performing PISA countries like Sweden, Australia and Japan all have one thing in common – high levels of community support for teachers and involvement from teachers in the course of instruction and curriculum. When new initiatives are handed down in the U.S., like the Common Core standards, teachers should have access to resources to help them reach goals. Teachers need more input in decisions, more access to continuing education resources and more faith from the administrators and families impacted by their classrooms.

STEM emphasis. There seems to be a general societal consensus that science, technology, engineering and math subjects are somehow boring, or uncool. A lot of attention has been placed lately on young women and finding ways to encourage them in male-dominated STEM fields, but I’d argue that young men need the same opportunities. Overall, more American students need to take an interest in STEM topics if we want to be able to compete on a global scale. The rapidly changing field of technology makes this part of U.S. K-12 education even more pressing. As the digital age continues to modify life as we know it, the students in today’s classrooms must have the tools to lead the country in discoveries, inventions and communication technology the coming decades.

Equal opportunities. In country that claims to be based on equality for all, there are still too many achievement gaps in our classrooms. While it should be a non-issue, the color of a student’s skin does seem to impact his or her academic achievement. It is not a direct effect, of course, but still something that needs even more focus to overcome. The best work on closing the achievement gap is in individual schools and I think that makes the most sense. No blanket national program will be able to answer all of the intricacies of why an achievement gap exists in a particular place or school. From a federal standpoint, however, schools should be encouraged to develop programs for eliminating achievement gaps and reaching individual students where it is most effective – their own classrooms.

Why do you think American students lag the rest of the world? What would you add to my list?

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

How Dumbed Down Education Is Creating a National Security Crisis

For the past few decades, our country’s educational system has seen both struggle and tremendous change. With the various ailments plaguing our educational system, education reforms have attempted to pick up those who are lagging behind. Furthermore, new methods of monitoring achievement have also been imposed through reform. This has led many to believe that our students are more uneducated than ever before. Dumbing down our educational system has created new problems and our national security may be at risk because of it.

A National Security Crisis

America’s youth are not prepared for the real world when they graduate from high school. High school graduates face three major options after receiving their diploma: join the workforce, join the military, or go to college. While a fair amount of high school graduates will choose to jump right into a job, a larger number of them will either turn to the military or higher education. Research has shown that they are ill-prepared for both.

The journey that takes most students through school before receiving their high school diploma is already filled with complexities. Our struggling educational system places scores from standardized testing at a higher value than the actual curriculum taught in the classroom. This means that students are only learning how to take tests, but are lacking in other learning opportunities to develop their potential skills and knowledge. Take that, along with achievement gaps, chronic absenteeism, and demoralized teachers, and students are already working with a built-in disadvantage leaving high school.

According to a 2018 report, about 30 percent of prospective recruits failed the Armed Forces Qualification Tests. In addition, it was found that less than one-third of Americans ages 17 to 24 are fit to serve the military. The educational system is cited as a problem. This is cause for extreme concern as volunteers who have already demonstrated a desire to serve will be turned away because they are not academically fit. The United States may have the strongest military in the world, but it needs people to fill its ranks.

What about higher education?

On the subject of higher education, a number of students simply do not finish college. While there are a multitude of factors to consider – socioeconomic status, individual and personal obstacles, even immigrant status – it must be recognized that some students are going into college unprepared and already falling behind their peers. Academic achievement will be a struggle if at all attained.

Educational achievement, David Skaggs asserts,  is directly linked to economic success. In order for the United States to compete in the global economy, its citizens much contribute; and they cannot contribute if they are lacking in education. The weakness of the educational system stretches all the way up to higher education, with a leveling out of the ratio of adults with diplomas and certificates compared to those who do not.

Finally, educational achievement or confidence will lead to better citizens and civic engagement. Education plays a large role in helping citizens have a better understanding of their government. When citizens understand their government, they will be more inclined to contribute and participate, strengthening our country overall. Dumbed down education proves to hinder national security by producing citizens who are poorly informed, unprepared, and unmotivated to take part.

21 Inspirational Quotes That Nelson Mandela Made About Education

We all have our heroes. Those human beings that seem larger than life and almost achieve Godlike status. One of my heroes is the late-great Nelson Mandela, who was affectionally nicknamed “Madiba.” His life serves as a testament to the impact that one determined person can have on the course of history. In this blog, I want to share 21 inspirational quotes that Nelson Mandela made about education with you.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” — Nelson Mandela

 “From the poorest of countries to the richest of nations, education is the key to moving forward in any society.” — Nelson Mandela

“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” — Nelson Mandela

 “Education is the great engine to personal development.” — Nelson Mandela

“Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So it’s important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.” — Nelson Mandela

“No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.” — Nelson Mandela

 “Educating all of our children must be one of our most urgent priorities. We all know that education, more than anything else, improves your chances of building better lives.” — Nelson Mandela

“It can be said that there are four basic and primary things that the mass of people in a society wish for: to live in a safe environment, to be able to work and provide for themselves, to have access to good public health and to have sound educational opportunities for their children.” — Nelson Mandela

 “The question of education has nothing to do with the question of the vote. On numerous occasions, it has been proved in history that people can enjoy the vote even if they have no education.” — Nelson Mandela

“It reaffirmed my long-held belief that education was the enemy of prejudice. These were men and women of science, and science had no room for racism.” — Nelson Mandela

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.” — Nelson Mandela

 “On the first day of school, my teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave each of us an English name and said that from thenceforth that was the name we would answer to in school. This was the custom among Africans in those days and was undoubtedly due to the British bias of our education.” — Nelson Mandela

“No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated. Any nation that is progressive is led by people who have had the privilege of studying.” — Nelson Mandela

“It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education.” — Nelson Mandela

 “No child in Africa, and in fact anywhere in the world, should be denied education.” — Nelson Mandela

 “Rhetoric is not important. Actions are.” — Nelson Mandela

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” — Nelson Mandela

 “Let’s recommit to work towards our common goal: a nation where all of us are winners, all of us have shelter, food, and education” — Nelson Mandela

 “Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is above all a test of one’s commitment.” — Nelson Mandela

 “The education I received was a British education, in which British ideas, British culture, British institutions, were automatically assumed to be superior. There was no such thing as African culture.” — Nelson Mandela

Can you think of any more?

The Edvocate Podcast, Episode 7: How Digital Age Teachers Can Win Over Parents

Education is a collaborative process, as it takes many stakeholders working in unison to help students succeed academically. One of the most integral parts of this collaborative team is parents, as teachers know all so well. So, if you are a teacher struggling to increase parental engagement, how do you fix this issue? In this episode, we will discuss 7 ways that digital age teachers win over parents.

The Edvocate Podcast, Episode 4: How to Create a Culturally Responsive Classroom

Building a culturally responsive classroom is hard. To help you along your journey, here is your guide to exploring and respecting the cultural backgrounds of your students while also using diversity as an asset. If you you listen to this episode of the podcast, and take my advice, you will have a culturally responsive classroom in no time.


Culturally responsive teaching is a theory of instruction that was developed by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and has been written about by many other scholars since then. To read more of her work on culturally responsive teaching and other topics, click here to visit her page.

The Edvocate Podcast, Episode 3: Why Teacher Shortages Occur

It seems that every year around this time, school districts around the country report not being able to fill all of their open teacher vacancies. Why do these cyclical teacher shortages occur? In this episode of the podcast, we will explore this topic in-depth.

The Edvocate Podcast, Episode 2: How Edtech Companies Should Start the New School Year

As summer reaches its peak, and fall gears up to make its arrival, students, parents, teachers, and administrators are all preparing for the beginning of a new academic year. So many gains were made last year, and they are eager to build upon that success. When we talk about education stakeholders who are concerned with starting the school year off right, we rarely, if ever, talk about edtech companies. They too are an integral part of the school community, as they provide a valuable service.

So how do edtech companies stay on their “A” games to begin the new school year? Not to worry, we have you covered.

Hello, my name is Dr. Matthew Lynch and welcome to the second episode of The Edvocate Podcast. Today, we will discuss back to school tips that will help your edtech company get off to a running start and sustain that momentum until summer break comes around again.