"Before you accuse, criticize or abuse, walk a mile in my shoes" Joe South

Picture one of your most troublesome students. Picture them saying and doing those things that they so often do that you and others find so irritating and annoying. Then ask yourself the following questions, perhaps even while watching them behave in those ways. It might better than simply saying and doing what you usually do one more time. For sure, do it when you’re not in the middle of a conflict. 

What’s this kid’s life been like for all the years before I’ve had to deal with him/her? 

What have other teachers like myself probably said or done with him, or to him/her? 

Might other kids have probably turned out the same way if they had those same experiences? 

Might I have turned out the same way if people in my life had treated me the way this kid has always been treated, perhaps starting from before he even started school? 

Has he/she probably had a lifetime of being told in many ways that he/she didn’t live up to peoples expectations in some way? And believing that about him/herself because of that? 

How might I have responded if people always had told me that? And I started to believe that? 

Might I learn to be quick to snap at others if that was what I always heard? 

Might I stop trying to protect myself? 

Might I learn to be quick to lash out at others because I always felt I was being attacked all the time? 

Might I stop caring, or at least pretend to not care about pleasing others because it never seemed to do me any good, and hurt to keep trying? 

Might I start trying to make their lives miserable because I believed they made mine miserable? 

Does this kid’s response remind me of what a turtle does when it feels threatened? 

Does his/her response remind me of what a rattlesnake does when it feels threatened? 

Is he/she like a turtle with school work, and a rattlesnake when confronted by teachers? 

Does this kid do pretty much the same as what real turtles do when we try to get them to come out of their shells? Go even deeper? 

Does the way I and other teachers approach this kid end up being like poking a real rattlesnake with a stick? 

Could what they do actually be an act of self-defense to them? 

If I keep thinking and feeling the way I always have, and others always have about this kid, are things going to get better or worse? 

If I keep saying and doing what I always have, and others always have with him/her, are things doing to get better or worse? 

Is it possible that I’ve been looking at this kid in a way that hasn’t help, and may even have just made things worse? 

Have I possibly said or did some things that made things worse for both him/her and myself? 

Is what I say and do with or to him/her sometimes really about having power and being in control, and trying to prove it to him/her? 

Is it ever really about getting even with him/her instead of getting him/her to cooperate? 

Do I end up usually demanding his/her obedience instead of requesting or inviting him/her to cooperate? 

Do I often think what this kid says and does is really awful, instead of just unpleasant, inconvenient and uncomfortable? 

Do I often tell myself I can’t stand what this kid says or does? 

Do I ever label and damn him/her, and call him/her names, either in my own mind, or perhaps even out loud to other teachers? 

Do I usually blame him/her for how I end up feeling? 

What do I really want fro 
m this kid? What do I want our time together to be like? 

How’s it been working for me to think, feel, say and do what I and others always have with this kid? 

If I keep thinking, feeling, saying and doing what I always have with this student, and what others always have, will I ever get what I really want from him/her, and have our time together be the way I’d like it to be? 

JFK said, "The problems of man are man-made. They can be solved by man".

Einstein said, "You can't solve a problem with the same mind that created it"

If you're ready to try a different approach with the most troubled and troublesome students in your classes or school, I invite you to read about the "Tool Time" approach I've developed and successfully used with such students, and juvenile inmates at:


Mindset is key to dealing with such young people effectively. There is an article about mindset on this blog. I urge you to read it. Mindset is key to getting into the best possible mental and emotional place to be effective with such students. There are some "tools" that can also help you get there. You can read about those at: