by Alex Nelson, Temple Sholom in Broomall

As a madrich, dealing with misbehaving students is a substantial part of my job. This year, I have been tasked to assist one particular student who has had a difficult time focusing on class. This experience has taught me valuable lessons about the importance of building relationships with students and how it can help in managing difficult behavior.

It was a regular day in the second-grade classroom when my student, let’s call him John, began acting up. He is easily bored by the criteria, but becomes a hard worker when he’s pursuing something he enjoys. On this day, he was particularly upset about me telling him to quiet down and began shunning me and talking over the teachers. His behavior was disruptive to the other students, and it was clear that I needed to intervene.

At first, I tried to reason with John, asking him to calm down while explaining to him why his behavior was unacceptable. However, he was not receptive to my words and continued to lash out.

Feeling frustrated and unsure of what to do next, I decided to take a different approach. I sat down next to John and asked him what was going on. I listened as he explained how he thought Sunday school was a waste of time, even saying at times that he wished he was Catholic. I could tell that he was genuinely upset and needed someone to talk to, and his words resonated with me while contemplating a solution.

Instead of scolding John or punishing him for his behavior, I took the time to empathize with him and express the importance of tradition. I also made a point to reassure him that I was there to help him and that we could work through the assignments together. Now, whenever he doesn’t understand why we need to learn something, I tell him the significance of the event and find a way to compare it to his own life.

Looking back on this experience, I realized that building relationships with students is key to managing difficult behavior in the classroom. By taking the time to listen to John and understand what was going on, I was able to address the root of the problem and help him to feel heard and supported. If I had simply punished him for his behavior, he would continue to dread learning about his heritage and acting up in class.

This experience taught me that students need to feel seen, heard, and understood, especially when they are struggling with difficult emotions. As a Madrich, it’s my responsibility to create a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves and seeking help when they need it. By doing so, I can not only help my students to succeed academically but also support their emotional well-being and personal growth.