Using body language in teaching: Confrontation

Welcome to the final part of my using body language in teaching series. Previously I have discussed using your hand positions to signal a change of tone and mood. I have also talked about how positioning within a room can be extremely powerful for controlling a class. This blog will look at how to better deal with confrontation from students.



I hate confrontation. As I am sure most other teachers do. Unfortunately it is something that every teacher will have to deal with at some point. The problem is, are teachers really trained to deal with it? During my teacher training we discussed how to deal with behaviour management but what about when that all falls apart? Sometimes this can be the fault of the teacher but sometimes students just also do not want to play ball. I was never properly taught about how to deal with this so when I had my first real confrontation I dealt with it poorly. On this occasion I used my powerful voice to put the student down. Did it keep my student under control? This time yes. Did I damage my relationship with this student? Definitely yes.

The situation

In some ways I was lucky the student backed down and although this was not the ideal way to deal with the situation you could argue it kinda worked. Lets change the situation slightly and give some more context to the issue. A student arrives late to your lesson. When they come in they are obviously frustrated about something and in a huff they sit down. When asked why they are late they give you an excuse which is obviously a lie. You challenge them on this and this gets them more frustrated and now they are telling you they don’t care what you think. You stand directly in front of them and give them a piece of your mind.

Let’s pause here for a second. The student is now in a very uncomfortable position. They have two choices:

  1. They back down, maybe apologise and bottle up their emotions. Minimal work will be completed that lesson and they may even continue to be a problem for that lesson.
  2. They decide to fight their corner and backchat you further and louder.


What can you do to change this situation?

Neither of these are ideal within a classroom. So how could body language of helped with this? By moving the problem away from the student. Let me explain. The student is already frustrated and is already in a vulnerable position. You as a teacher have now criticised them further for being late and have now entered their personal space. This is not going to end well. Lets change how the teacher interacts with the student. This time the student comes into the room frustrated, late and again sits at his desk. The teacher realising this goes beside the student and kneels down at his level and asks why they are late. The student may again give an excuse which is obviously a lie. This is where the other hand comes into play.


By putting your hand out as if it was a notepad and explaining the situation to the student while referring to the hand will help to diffuse the situation greatly. With some simple body language you have moved the problem from the student to your hand. The student now does not feel like you are directly attacking them and instead you are discussing the problems you have with their behaviour. The student is now well aware of what they have done wrong but at the same time you have diffused the situation. Have you kept the student under control? Yes. Have you damaged your relationship with the student? No! A much better outcome and you have not needed to raise your voice or massively disrupt your lesson.

This concludes my blogs on body language (For now). I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Please drop me a comment for suggestions and other ideas!



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