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A Teacher’s Tip For Holding Your Ground


Holding your ground

When you teach, you should expect to provide positive feedback and consequences. Our profession requires an appropriate balance of task and relationship. Sometimes it is not apparent why some students don’t cause an uproar due to an underlying quality that some teachers have by holding their ground.

Holding one’s ground is a skill that takes practice and determination. Consequently, this is the act of being firm without being mean or hurtful. Most importantly, this quality a careful balance influences our students through the way we reinforce procedures, consequences, communicate with our students.

Teachers make many decisions each day, and the idea of holding one’s ground is rooted in a vast number of these calls.

Say No

Being able to say “No” is one of the most effective ways teachers can hold their ground without completely discouraging student engagement. To make yourself clear, say, “No, I understand, and the answer is no.” This statement implies a level of listening and consideration of the student’s request; however, it outlines a definitive answer to their request.

Avoid Over-Explanations

Often students won’t argue with a teacher about a decision made by a teacher. In the event, the student has an argumentative predisposition, and the teacher starts to over-explain their reasoning, an unneeded argument may result. Consequently, once we start trying to justify our reasons for the decision, the student will come up with a reason that they feel is more important.

Once an argument occurs, you now have a classroom full of eyes and ears that feel they should have to say in the decision poised. Avoid having an engaged class in a debate that seemingly has taken the full classroom control away from the teacher.

The solution is to delay any answers. Get the student to reengage the conversation at the end of class. Ultimately you want the discussion not to be the focal point of the class. As a result, this allows the student some ownership in the conversation to explain. Even delaying the discussion ten minutes will de-escalate the emotional draw toward the conversation.

If the student insists on continuing the debate, you have a few options. You can repeat the answer, stand silent, or point or look towards what the student should be doing.

The Effective “No”

What makes an effective “no?” A compelling “no” places no blame on the student but instead communicates to the student what needs to happen. There is no complaining with an effective “no.” There is no “under the breath remarks” or disrespectful body language. Instead, communicate what the students need to work on in a “matter-of-a-fact” way.

Also, effective “no’s” do not try to accommodate or make adjustments for the student. Most importantly, this is a quality-based skill that must be practiced by teachers. The idea is that saying “no” is simple, clear, kind, and to the point.

Anger in the Classroom

At one point or another, we have all felt anger and frustration when in the classroom. It is essential not to let these feelings get the best of us, so they cause additional problems.

Rather than having a reactionary response to a student, find a balance and the right solution. Often when a student misbehaves, we hold in the sense of frustration with our internal monologue reminding us that good teachers don’t get angry. As a result of continued pint up frustration, the ill effects eventually spill out into our teaching.

As a solution, take a deep breathe and count to ten. Allow quality oxygen to flow to the brain. Reassure yourself that blame should not be on the student. Instead, interpret the situation as the student is communicating that he or she does not know what the appropriate behavior in class is. Calmly and professionally remind the student of the expectations.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, when dealing with students that require you to hold your ground. Be sure to follow the RRR technique. Recognize, Re-orient, and Respond. Understand students often want to be heard and need to know you care. Respond to requests contrary to class policy in a kind and firm way to maintain a level of respect within the educational environment.


Are you looking for a balance in the classroom? Want to build up your teacher toolkit? Check out Conscious Classroom Management by Rick Smith and Grace Dearborn.


Ascd. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/sept15/vol57/num09/Rules-and-Relationships@-Which-Comes-First¢.aspx.

Howcast. (2014, March 17). How to Hold Your Ground in the Classroom – Howcast: The best how-to videos. Retrieved from https://www.howcast.com/videos/517351-holding-your-ground-in-the-classroom-classroom-management.

Smith, R., & Dearborn, G. (2016). Conscious classroom management: unlocking the secrets of great teaching. San Rafael, CA: Conscious Teaching Publications.

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