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Advice

Avoiding Power Struggles with Students

The dos and don'ts of dealing with classroom confrontations.
Published: 06/19/2020

“I hate you, and I hate this school!”

This isn’t the reaction educators are looking for in the middle of class. But disruptive and confrontational students are sometimes an unavoidable challenge. If handled poorly, these confrontations can lead to power struggles -- and more disruptions.

Fortunately, many educators have developed strategies for dealing with confrontational students. At the top of the list: “Never get into a power struggle,” says Mary Barela, a middle school teacher in Fort Collins, Colorado. “You are the adult and know better. If the conversation feels like it is slipping toward a power struggle, find a way to change the course.” 

That may feel like it is easier said than done, so we asked educators for their advice on defusing tense situations with students. Here's their list of  Dos and Don’ts.

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