The Miracle Cure for Chronic Troublesome Students


Imagine that a troublesome student you have goes home one night and takes a pill that turns him/her into the student you’ve always wanted him/her to be.

How would you think and feel about that student if that happened? How would you say and do things differently to him/her if they really did change?

Now try doing those things and see what happens.

I once had a young math teacher who had a number of my “Tool Time” group kids in her class. Needless to say they were giving her a hard time. She asked for help in how to deal with them and I suggested she try this “Miracle Cure” strategy. She did and the next day I got an email saying my guys were “model students” that day.


Most troublesome students have usually had a lifetime of negative interactions with teachers. They develop cognitive, emotional and behavioral “ruts” from these experiences. “Ruts” make thoughts, feelings and action automatic. That could be a good or bad thing depending on what thoughts, feelings and behavior the “ruts” give rise to. “Ruts” are why people recreate their pasts. That could be a good or bad thing as well depending on what someone’s history has been. Students with troubling histories will try to recreate their pasts with teachers. It’s like their producing a play that has been running for many years, and invite their teachers to play a part in it.


Part of their cognitive “ruts” are what they imagine or expect teachers will think and feel about them, and say and do to them. Dr. Alex Molnar calls such expectations “frozen perceptions”. Students will have them about teachers, and other students. But teachers often have or develop them about students as well. Many times a student’s previous teachers will share their acquired “frozen perceptions” with a student’s new teachers – perceptions they may even have gotten from teachers the student had before them. School records can also contribute to “frozen perceptions” being passed from one teacher to another.


I once had a student who got into trouble with a friend he had for science class. My friend tended to be sarcastic with troublesome students. I asked the student what happened, and he said “I heard that Mr. ------ always picks on kids so I got him first”. This reminded me of that old saying in sports, “The best defense is a good offense”. This student expected my friend to be sarcastic with him, like my friend had been with so many other students in the past, and so many other teachers had been with this students. So he decided to get a shot in first.


I had a few simple rules that helped me get through tough situations. One was that if you think, feel, say and do what other teachers always have with troublesome students, you’ll get what they’ve always gotten. So do something different. That’s what the Miracle Cure is all about. And it starts with changing the way you view the student. Attitude is always the father of behavior. It always helps to change your attitude before you try to change your behavior.


I have a belief that inside every troublesome student is someone who just wants the same kind of life he/she sees other kids around them having, including good relationships with teachers. But their early life experiences have often understandably taught them that they will never have such things. And many lose hope of ever having such relationships or the kind of life they’d really like. I think of such kids as “lost boys” (or girls), like from Peter Pan. I try to seek out that  part of them and help them find their way to the life they’d like to have.


I once heard a detective on a TV cop drama say “Inside every person are two dogs fighting, one good, one bad. The one that wins is the one you feed the most”. I try to feed that good dog. The Miracle Cure is a way to start doing that.


One of my mentors once said, “Sometimes we expect those who are least able to change to change first, and change the most”. He went on to say “We need to make the first move and lead the way”. The Miracle Cure does that.


Here's the rest of the story about that young math teacher. I actually had learned from my guys that they believed she had her "favorites" in their class, and they weren't them. And they resented that she seemed to treat those other students nicer than she did them. I'm certain this reminded them of many other experiences with other teachers in the past. So they would adopt the "mistaken" goal of revenge and try to make her feel miserable. It's like that old saying "Misery loves company". Seeing her get upset gave them satisfaction for how they believed she made them feel. 

Everyday when they came to class, they expected it to be the same as it had been the day before, the way it had been in so many other classess all of their lives. She threw them a curve by being  nice. She made it hard for them to plug into their old "ruts" or "frozen perceptions" that day. And she gave that kid inside them a chance to have the kind of relationship they'd always really wanted to have with a teacher, the kind they saw her having with the other students. She fed the good dog in them that day.