Problem dealing with a student

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    i have one student that is sooo difficult, she literally smashes every lesson i teach by making a total mockery of it. she zaps me of all my enthusiasm for each lesson/ project i teach. and then, yesterday i met her in the mall and she was wearing pants, its still eating me. as difficult as she may be, i see how she is so screwed in her yiddishkeit, and that is the saddest part!

    any ideas how to deal with her?

    talking to her will not help, i’ve tried one too many times. threatening to call her parents doesn’t help. sending her to the principal doesnt either help, after one really chutzpadig incident i sent her to the pricipal, and he was very easy on her telling her that she’s a year older than last year, and that such behavior is not acceptable…. it didn’t help a bit! he also told her to apologize t me before the next class that i taught her, she did not, and continued her behavior of total leitzanus. its not that i need the apology, i was just giving an example to give you a clearer picture of who i am dealing with.

    any suggestions? because i’d really like to help her without pushing her further..


    So let me make sure I understand this. You have a student who is in pain and struggling with yiddishkeit. So you’re giving her speeches. Am I the only one confused as to how this makes sense?


    Sounds like you are all set to teach the easy students who would learn with or without a teacher, but not the students for whom a good teacher will actually matter. Stop complaining about how awful she is. You get paid to get results.

    1. Assess her current situation, including strengths, weaknesses, and areas where improvement is likely. Be careful not to substitute your judgment for hers, your boss’s, or her parents’.

    2. Figure out what a reasonable goal is.

    3. Figure out what steps would move toward that goal.

    4. Implement those steps and a bit more.


    nope, you are not understanding me, i’m asking for help in getting to this girl in the right way without pushing her further… i tried till now with the ways mentioned previously, i also tried giving her incentives such as allowing her to intorduce a project to the class,if the negative behavior is stopped…. but nothing has helped.

    also, from your answer, fkelly, i get the feeling that you have a lot of anger to a teacher who didnt reach you when you were in pain, and thats why you are afraid that i will do the same… am i right?


    Your priorities are messed up if you’re complaining that a student’s questions “zap you of your enthusiasm.” Teaching is (or at least, should be) about addressing the student’s needs, not the teacher’s. Enthusiasm should be generated through interaction with your students, not from your satisfaction with your lesson.

    My suggestion: try legitimately addressing the points she raises. Don’t write them off as mockery, even if it IS clear that she’s only questioning out of belligerence. Don’t try to divert her with unrelated incentives. Don’t be defensive or evasive if you can’t give her an answer–say, “That’s a good question, I need some time to think about it,” and try to prepare something that SHE will find meaningful. If she’s putting a negative spin on everything you say–try to look past the negativity, pinpoint the issue she’s bringing up and open it for discussion. Whatever you do, be straightforward and level-headed, and don’t let your pride or personal outrage get in the way. If you do that, I think you’ll find that she will respect you more and might even be willing to listen to what you have to say.

    Also, in general, try to have an bit of leeway for an open forum during the lesson. Don’t try too hard to keep to your script. Mentally prepare yourself for spontaneous discussion, and encourage it. Don’t make this about “fixing” this student–it’s really an opportunity for you to develop better teacher skills and genuinely engage your students.


    I’d seriously answer her questions to the nest of your ability, or refer her to people who can actually answer her questions.

    A huge reason why people raised in Orthodoxy reject religion altogether is that they had teachers who refused to answer their questions. I assume you teach limudei kodesh; your training may have included teaching the finer points of dikduk, hilkhot shabbat, etc., but more likely than not, you didn’t study sifrei machshava or the pratim of Jewish theology. This girl may benefit from a meeting with someone who is well-schooled in the fundamentals of emunah, since it seems she may not be convinced of the Torah’s veracity and whatnot.


    first question is how old??

    don’t try helping fix her, just try compassion and care. If she interrupts n ruins the class, that IS frustrating, but in your own mind, view her as someone who cannot control their behaviour or someone lacking social skills (even if it’s not) and respond as if she was- say good question, that you’ll think about it, please raise your hand next time, etc only with gentleness. If punishing a student doesn’t help or is counterproductive, you can be pretty sure there’s something more going on than leitzanus. Sounds like the principal knows this and thus treated the situation in a fitting way. S/he should follow up on making her apologize if he told her too perhaps, unless he thinks it might be detrimental. Ask him/her for advice, i.’m sure the principal knows her story better.

    As an aside, for me, introducing a project would be a punishment, not reward! Try specific goals- not ‘behaving’, thats too general, but not calling out for half hour periods, or raising her hand when she wants to say something. Give her a point for every half hour she stays quiet/every time she raises her hand. And ask HER what she would like for the reward. If she’s not interested at all, it wont work anyhow. And keep it private! No one else should know anything about it


    whoa! you are all not getting what im trying to say! maybe i need to explain myself more. this is a girl who comes from a very wealthy home (she lives on an island…). she doesnt ask questions at all. i dont get scared off by questions.. what she does is, laughs at every word that comes out of my mouth and pokes fun of everything that goes on in the classroom. i teach 7 classes and she is the only student that i cant seem to reach, regardless of the countless attempts made. shes putting up very strong walls, and its possible that its only because she wants me to break them down.

    i’ve given her a lot of my free time during school (gladly) and all that comes out of it, is total disregard for anything i try to do.

    oneofmany- my classes are totally open to any discussion, i do not run a tight ship at all. i believe that kids are kids and allow thm to be kids. and she doesnt raise any points.

    veltz meshugener- sorry, i actually love challenges, and love cracking tough cases. i was one of them myself.

    rebdoniel- i had plenty of training in jewish theology, all my lessons run along those notes.

    if a girl asks a question in class that borders on emunah, tfilah… my students all know that i will tell them to close their books and we will adress the question raised until everyone understands it.

    for alll of you who doubt my capability as a teacher, be my guest but thats not what the thread was started for. so maybe start a new thread and call it “iknos folly”

    so again, any advice on how to reach such a student?


    So you met her in the mall with pants and all you care about is her pants not whom she was with and what she was up to?


    You’re almost right ikno.

    But from the way you wrote that it seems like you’re doing nothing to address the actual problem. You’re threatening, sending to the principal… Why would that help? She’s clearly calling out for help. So get her help! Until you address the root problem you’ll still have problems with her behavior.


    sounds to me like your new at this and probably not properly prepared. Go sit and spend time observing and talking to a veteran teacher who is a master at what they do, and learn from them. It takes time, there is no magic bullet, but the best advice i can give al regel achas is to find something positive about her and “run with it”. The best chinuch advice i can give you in general is “model the behavior you want the child to emulate”. It also seems like you are close in age or of similar age to the student in question ,and treat her more like a friend. you need to break that mindset in order to command respect in the classroom. THe place for advice though, is amongst your co workers who have been doing this (Successfully) for years, not here IMHO> although im happy to advise!!


    So the problem is less about intellect and more about attitude, you’re telling us. In that case, perhaps this is an issue a psychologist should deal with.


    While everyone is saying this girl is crying out for help, that may not be the case. Do you know what her family is like? Does her mother wear pants regularly? If that’s the case, and the parents don’t care if she wears pants, then you have a big problem. Parents must reinforce at home what is taught in school.

    I think there needs to be a meeting with the parents, and some things might be said which they find unpleasant. If the school is BY type, and the parents don’t care if she dresses in pants, they should be asked, “Why are you sending her here?” Make it clear that the school has certain standards that she must adhere to. Explain that if the mother wears pants, the girl will only be conflicted as to what is right. It may be that the school is not the right place for her.

    If the parents are not aware of what she’s doing, and want her to shape up, then just discuss with them what is going on. Ask for their assistance. Maybe something is going on in her life which is causing her to lash out? Parents and teachers need to work together.

    One other point which occurred to me as I was typing this is her other teachers. I assume you’re not the only teacher she has? Have you spoken to the other teachers to find out if she’s acting the same way with them? If it’s only with you, then you might need to talk with the principal and try and figure out why that may be.


    Not running a tight ship is the reason you are having this problem.. IMHO


    ikno: First of all, kudos to you for doing your best! May all teachers care about their students the way you do and try as much as you do to reach every student!

    As a general rule, children want to please. When i say children, it does not mean under 10 years of age. As they get older and hormones come into play,and/or problems in the home come up, and/or there isnt enough parental availability, and/or there’s a learning disability, etc…. the list goes on and on. A child is bound to act up. It can be for attention that they arent getting at home, it can be to cover up an insecurity, it can be a cry for help, or it can just be that this is what they see in their home!

    In most girls schools, there is a mechaneches that usually talks to the girls to see what makes them tick. Sometimes a students favortie teacher can be of help even more. Maybe walk the student down the block on her way home and let her know that you are there for her. Maybe ask her favorite teacher to talk to her. In high school, its not an embarassment to be seen walking with a teacher.

    Good luck!


    you are soo missing the point. Reaching this girl is not the problem right now, getting you to become a better teacher is. That should be your goal, and by default, she will come around and learn to follow suit. Its a slow process, you may never even have the satisfaction of knowing whether or not you reached her..but i susupect that she will begin to respect you and your classroom, once you have her at that level you can begin to delve into her haskafic issues. First and foremost you need to investigate your teaching approach and ask if its working or not.(for all your students) And whether or not you have been in this field for ten minutes or ten years you should always be ready and willing to improve and /or learn new methods, if not I would say teaching is not for you.


    “veltz meshugener- sorry, i actually love challenges, and love cracking tough cases. i was one of them myself.”

    I am glad to hear that you don’t give up the minute a student is challenging. I still think that my post was relevant based on the OP and on the way that you responded.

    You don’t need to “crack” anything. It seems that you think of her as involving some sort of quirky complication, and as soon as you get to the bottom of it she will be just like everyone else and she will come give you a hug at 2 am before she sets off to BJJ after a marvelous epiphany. But outside of Rabbi Krohn books and Chicken Soup for the Soul that is not how problems work. People are complicated and improvement is a progression, and the goal shouldn’t be for her to be like everyone else. Figure out what *she* needs and work on improving it.


    Some questions:

    1. How old is the girl? I get the impression that she is between 14 and 16.

    2. How is she doing academically? Never mind her attitude, how are her test scores?

    3. You say her parents are rich. Does the school depend on them for major support? Could it be that the girl thinks that she can get away with anything because Papa hat gelt and the school needs him? Does Papa have the same attitude, I.E. You have to keep/accept my daughter or I’ll walk?

    If the answer to #3 is all yeses, what is happening is that you and the school are being bullied by an obnoxious girl raised by obnoxious parents all of whom think that their wealth and social status lets them do as they want. The only effective way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. I strongly suggest that the girl be summarily tossed out of school and if Papa says he’ll take his money elsewhere, tell him, “Go ahead. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

    Be certain that the One Who Provides Sustenance to All will see that the loss of revenue from this schlemiel will be made up by others and, who knows, maybe finally being stood up to will have an educational effect on them. You’re a teacher. Not all lessons are taught in a classroom.


    let the school psychologist deal with it.


    ikno, you seem to be really caring and devoted to your students and frustrated that you are not connecting to this girl.

    First off, I think said student really *needs* your approval but she’s unwilling to admit to this right now and she is willing to go to great lengths just to get your attention. I’m guessing that she somehow got used to getting negative attention all the time and this is her way.

    See if you can find anything positive – anything, no matter how minor you think it is, to help encourage and praise her. Focus on that. Praise her when you catch her doing something good and tell her how amazing her good qualities are.(even if it’s something like remembering to do her homework) Eventually she will realize that it’s useless to disrupt your classes because she’s getting positive attention from you anyway.

    If all else fails, and you’ve tried different techniques for another little while, then I would see this as a cry for help, in which case I would suggest you proceed with caution. When you do, ask your principal if there’s an expert on complicated chinuch matters on the school board, or if the school has someone to consult with on this matter.

    I wish you good luck with this, and all other chinuch challenges that come your way as a teacher. I have tremendous respect for you as you seem to be very caring, compassionate and serious in your role as someone on the front lines of chinuch and literally working on behalf of Klal yisroel.



    If you force her to go to a psychologist when she doesn’t want to, it won’t help at all. Worse, she’ll assume that you’ve given up on her and are just palming her off onto the psychologist to “fix” her. Don’t offer her special incentives, either, and don’t threaten her. There is no reason for you to treat her differently in this regard than the way you would treat any of your other students.

    She should not be allowed to cause disruptions in class. You need to be really strict on this point for the sake of the other students. The first time per class that she causes a disruption, calmly tell her that her behavior will not be tolerated and continue with your lesson. The next time she does it in the same class, just ignore her. She is clearly crying out for attention, and if she sees that disruptions won’t get her the attention she wants, she’ll stop. But do continue to spend time with her outside of class (inasmuch as she is willing) and try not to lose your patience no matter what she says. You need to show her that you care about her, and that nothing she says or does can change that. Although you may be horrified and cringing inwardly every time she makes fun of Torah or demonstrates how far she has fallen from Yiddishkeit, stay calm and just smile at her. She may be doing some of this for shock value. Don’t allow yourself to be shocked. I know it’s hard and you won’t reach her overnight, but b’ezras Hashem one day she will call you out of the blue and tell you how much you inspired and helped her during her time of difficulty. Much hatzlacha and please keep us posted!


    Get her kicked out of school for wearing pants. Problem solved.


    let her wear pants to school.


    Two things I can suggest:

    1) Find out what she gains by her outburst. Why does she do it? Is it attention seeking? Is it for social admiration? Is it frustration?

    2) Remember, whatever you have done up until now hasn’t worked, so it’s time to switch methods. Maybe she only responds to tough love. Maybe this is the only way she can get any attention at home. Gotta run now. Maybe I’ll look at this again later.


    thanks to all of you, for all your wondrful, and not so wondrful words….! her family is a family that allows pants, so she is not doing it to cry out for help. her leitzanus is a way of trying to gain friends and admiration.

    redleg- yes the answer are all yeses.

    rc-“you are soo missing the point. Reaching this girl is not the problem right now, getting you to become a better teacher is. That should be your goal…”

    as always i am striving to always become a better teacher, but im a little confused what you are basing your statement on.

    no1- she was with two other of my students and they were both wearing clohes not befitting for a bas yisroel, and not complying with school standards either. but, she was the one who struck out the most being that she was wearing pants and in addition to her behavior in school.

    damoshe- yes i did speak with her other teachers, and they all have a very hard time with her.


    “In many cases, the problem is the student, not the teacher.”

    reb doniel- words of wisdom….. but your very quick to show something else in this post…. think of your own experiences before being so harsh on others…


    I said she needs help because the typical cynical, chutzpadik child is reacting to stress they’re dealing with.


    ikno, I was addressing her behavior during class. Not the the pants.


    I think a lot of people are being harsh and rude in their posts for no reason.

    The OP asked a valid, fair question and is seeking answers to help her. Majority of you did nothing of the sort, and just bashed someone whom you never even met or know nothing about.

    Ikno- I do not really have advice for you. Maybe she would benefit from seeing a counselor or someone because she may have an issue deeper than her problems with yiddishkeit.

    I would speak to an expert mechanech who you could tell the whole story to and who actually knows what he/she is talking about.



    Part of being a teen is rebellion, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t rebelled (might not be as drastic as an outwardly flaunting). Girls in particular who rebel are looking out to see who’s watching and how they’ll react.

    They need unconditional love, I can’t imagine that wearing pants will make you (a teacher) cringe yes. but try to show respect and not be shocked. WE sometimes like the shock value of look I can cross lines, and yes! I saw my teacher and looked like _____. I would only say that a good teacher (someone I had, would wish on e/o else would say omg, how are and ignore the dress. The comments aren’t necessary since she prob. knows you didn’t approve.

    When you’re talking about an adult it’s different, but come on teens will be teens!


    thank you batseven!

    and popup- true facts! when i met her , bh, hashem helped me not show shock whatsoever. i greeted her and the others warmly, and introduced them to my sister who i was shopping with.

    and yes teens will always be teens- true, but not on the achrayis on the other girls in the class.


    ikno: What kind of school is it? Is it Beis Yaakov type? If it is, then the question must be raised, why are the parents sending her there? There must be a meeting with the parents to discuss the issues, and to tell them how important it is for them to reinforce what is taught in school.


    ikno- Her family’s flippancy towards pants, does NOT mean it’s not a cry for help! I’m kind of confused how you reached this conclusion. How does her family’s religious standards equal a stable home environment?

    My thoughts are that maybe her cynicism towards you, may not be because of your role as an educator of values, but your role as an adult. If she’s had emotional neglect from her parents, she may have learned to be cynical to any adults so she wouldn’t have to deal with the pain.

    (example: parents rarely home, or if they are, pay more attention to phone then to her)

    There also may be abuse that goes on in the home, and cynicism to all adults is her way of blocking it out.

    Now for some criticism. You asked for help with a problem child that you admittedly don’t know how to deal with. Yet, anything that was written in this forum with a hint of criticism, you seem to take as a personal attack on your entire career. People are questioning everything, including what you yourself contribute to her life. Understandably, people are going to question what you have done so far, your style, your education, etc. It’s to help this girl, which as her teacher should be your goal as well. Perhaps try ignoring any personal affronts, and just look at the criticism as an opportunity to self reflect on your own behavior/outlook.


    Love love love!

    Menachem Melamed

    I had a student that I found very challenging, and I felt frustrated that nothing I tried seemed to help. I decided that if I (and the rest of the staff) did not know how to help him, I would at least do my best not to do anything to make his situation worse. I tried to be as patient with him as I could, and I was careful not to yell at him or insult him. He is a very successful Menahel today.

    It is good to remind yourself that real success is doing the best possible job for your students according to where they are “holding” at that time. Some people foolishly think that the teachers who have the easy students are the best ones. In truth, those who deal patiently and wisely with the difficult students are the best of the best.



    I’m not addressing everything but I’ll start with the pants. She can’t be allowed to bring other kids down. In most schools such a kid would have been expelled by now. Bottom line is a kid has to obey the school rules and if the school has a dress code for their students in and out of school it must be followed. I think the girl has to be made to understand that the school can’t keep her if she’s ruining other kids. No school tolerates this. You also have an issue where the school is teaching different hashkafah than the home. This can cause lots of issues where the kid can feel confused and frustrated. She hears one thing from you but her parents who I assume she loves and respects have totally different views and possibly tell her that she doesn’t need to believe all the stuff her morahs are telling her. Complicated situation. I would say that a mental health professional should speak to her and try to get to the bottom of her behavior.


    Based on you narrative, this girl is a constant source of disruption and defiance. Tell me. Is she a new student or has she been in this school since early grades? if she has, has she always been disruptive or is this relatively new behavior? I’m surprised that the school has tolerated her behavior for so long. Would the school suffer loss, either financial or social if this girl were kicked out?

    Again, based on you narrative, I don’t think that this girl is acting out because of unanswered hashkafic needs or emotional problems. I still believe that she is behaving so because she can get away with it and has for a while. She is a bully and the more she can make you feel inadequate and “try to reach her”, the more satisfying a victim you become.


    redleg, i’m amazed at your perception! your understanding is unbelievable

    yes she is a new girl in the school, i have actually spoken to her yesterday, and today she did a project for the class, and was a pleasure to teach and after class she came over to me and asked me if she was good today, and i answered her that shes always good but sometimes she doesn’t let me see that side of her…


    ikno, you sound like a talented and dedicated teacher! We are lucky to have you in chinuch!

    R. Brezak has a great story of a Rebbe who told a child, “I don’t care how much trouble you make, I will love you anyway.”

    A similar story is with a rebbe who went to visit a child’s house at night and told him, I heard that you have a great stamp collection. Can I see it?

    Point I’m trying to make: Can you give her some special attention? Can you find something that she’s good at and give it as a class project, with parents/principals/other classes coming to see it?

    Good luck, and once again we’re lucky to have such talented and dedicated teachers teaching our daughters and sisters!


    Funnybone, I’m so happy that someone finally said what I was screaming at my screen as I was scrolling down the posts. In my experience, kids won’t act out with teachers that they truly feel love them and care about them. IKNO, you clearly do care about her, but might need to show it to her in ways that you don’t need to with other kids. A mentor of mine once said that the best medicine for a child starved of attention – is attention.

    Perhaps invite her to your house for Shabbos. Maybe a Thursday night to bake challah. If those aren’t shayach, maybe take her for coffee or ice cream after school.

    For many teachers, money is an issue. You might want to meet with her parents and share your care and concern for her with them. Show them your commitment to her growth and wellbeing (which you’ve clearly demonstrated throughout this stream). You’re not “busting” her by going to her parents – you’re strategizing and partnering with them. My hunch is that your description of her behavior won’t be a surprise to them, and they will embrace your reaching out to them and gladly offer to “help” you in any way they can – which might mean paying you or at least reimbursing you for your additional expenses. (NOTE: Before I get jumped on for saying that. I’m not claiming you should demand extra pay for helping her. You clearly are a dedicate and lishma teacher. I just know from experience with teachers that money is often an issue for them that prevents them from doing some of these things and parents will very often GLADLY help in this way when they find a teacher that is willing to go the extra mile for their child.)

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