Constructive Confrontation


Something which you are never taught in teacher training, but without it survival chances are limited – How to deal with confrontation in a constructive way.

Confrontation is an unavoidable part of teaching. If the teacher is not in control of the classroom, the students will be. Therefore teachers need to be able to confront students in a constructive way that minimizes negativity. When this can be achieved, the teacher can continue to command the respect of their students.

During my 4 years in con-current teacher education there was a huge emphasizes on classroom management, but confrontation was never once mention, or how to deal with confrontation! Was there an assumption that once I conquered all the correct classroom management strategies, this would come natural or I wouldn’t need this?

During TP in my final year, I was met head on with a student who wanted nothing more than to cause trouble, disrupt my classes, refuse to learn and argue at every possible chance. I was left exhausted, classroom management strategies were failing big time.

I looked for advice from my supervisor and he urged me to confront this students. I explain the students troubled background to which I had grave sympathy for. Nevertheless, he encouraged me to confront this student, to bring an end to the disruptive behaviour. And of course, he was right! After confronting the student, survival in the classroom for both of us was

My constructive confrontation strategy (adapted from Séan O’ Flynn and Harry Kennedy)

Step 1: State the Facts

Non-evaluative and unemotional manner.

The statement of fact must be expressed in such a manner that it cannot be refuted. The purpose of this step, as simple as it sounds, is to allow the teacher and student to agree about what happened. This helps both parties involved to avoid denial, defensiveness and confusion.

Example; “Mary, you are tapping your biro on the table”  instead of “Mary, you are disrupting my class”

Step 2: What I feel

Honest and direct feelings.

The teacher must share feelings, about what happened in Step 1, directly to the student. This step, humanizes the exchange and enhances the possibilities of a positive outcome. It is a hard step as must teachers feel that they are giving their power away when they disclose their feelings.

Example; “Mary, you are taping your biro on the table and I’m becoming frustrated”

Step 3: Why I Feel

Reveal the tangible effect of the students behavior.

In this step, the teacher must show the student how the behaviour is negatively affecting us (teacher and other students) in a practical way. This is step is done, instead of confronting the student with regards to a school rule, as students are ‘allegric to authority’

Example; “The class is finding it difficult to concentrate on this task, and I am finding it difficult to help them.”

Step 4: We have a problem

A clear identification between the both the teacher and student.

Example; “We have a problem here and we need to work together, to find a solution that we can all agree on”

Step 5: Silence

The teacher must maintain a period a silence, in order to allow the student to make an input to the discussion (if they wish to do so). It is important to give students an opportunity to have an input.

Step 6: What plan can we make to fix the problem

Working with the student to find a solution. Sometimes this requires more than an apology (depending on the seriousness of the disruptive behaviour).

What to say when an apology is not enough: “I wouldn’t be entirely satisfied with that”.


We must remember that students who brake school or class rules need to be confronted regularly on the basis they are infringing the rights of others. I hope these six steps to Constructive Confrontation (adapted from Séan O’ Flynn and Harry Kennedy) can be of some help as they were for me.



*Séan O’ Flynn and Harry Kennedy, 2010 ‘Conflict and Confrontation in the Classroom; Reflections on Current Practice’ Paradigm Press:Ireland. 


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