Hugging Porcupines: How to Build Relationships with Challenging Students

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We’ve all heard about the value or relationships, and we’re believers. So how do we build and cultivate those all-important relationships…with some of our most challenging students? What do we do when the very kids who most need positive relationships seem to resist our efforts at relationship-building? Is there anything we can do?

You bet there is!

In this course for K-12 educators, you’ll join Mike Anderson, an award-winning teacher, a best-selling author, and an award-winning consultant, on a journey that explores this challenging topic. You’ll hear stories, both successes and challenges, from his own teaching. You’ll gain practical strategies you can try right away. You will also gain access to many powerful and practical resources to help you as you deepen your thinking and implement strategies.

Warning! Before you register for this course, it’s important to understand that this isn’t a gimmicky get-results-fast with “tricks and tips” kind of course. You’re not going to be encouraged to use sticker charts and incentive plans to “motivate” tough students. (In fact, you’ll be discouraged from using strategies like this!) You already know that quick-fixes won’t work. This course is about tried-and-true practices that will slowly, steadily, and surely, help you gain the trust and mutual respect needed for lasting positive relationships to develop between you and your students. As a bonus, these same strategies will work for all of your students, not just the most challenging!

You should also know, before you go any further, that this isn’t a course with quizzes, tests, required writing assignments, or other accountability measures. This course is about learning for the sake of supporting our students. You should do as much or as little of this as you need in order to better support your toughest kids. That being said, it will probably take about 3-6 hours to complete.

* If you are a school/district leader and are interested in learning more about this course or are interested in discussing a group discount, email Mike Anderson at

Course Features

  • Lectures 39
  • Quizzes 0
  • Skill level All levels
  • Language English
  • Students 235
  • Certificate Yes
  • Assessments Yes
  • Introduction 0/4

    In this introduction, you'll meet Mike and get ready to dig into the content of the course.

  • Knowing and Understanding Our Students 0/9

    In this section, you will learn some strategies for getting to know your students better. This is the foundation of building good relationships with them.

    • Lesson2.1
      The Power of Relationships
    • Lesson2.2
      How Well Do You Know Your Students?
    • Lesson2.3
      Every Kid Needs a Champion
    • Lesson2.4
      Find Students’ Positive Qualities
    • Lesson2.5
      Consider Students’ Primary Emotions
    • Lesson2.6
      Build Relationships Slowly: Small Moments Are Key
    • Lesson2.7
      Building Relationships Through Remote Learning
    • Lesson2.8
      Bonus: Jeffrey Benson Encourages Us to Find Delight in Students’ Ideas
    • Lesson2.9
      Bonus: Margaret Berry Wilson Encourages Us to Know Ourselves 30 min
  • Don't Incentivize. Teach Skills. 0/8

    One of the biggest mistakes educators make with challenging kids is to focus their efforts on incentivizing their behavior. Instead, let's work at teaching them the skills they need to be successful.

    • Lesson3.1
      Incentives Do More Harm Than Good
    • Lesson3.2
      Kids Do Well If They Can
    • Lesson3.3
      The Dangers of Incentive Systems
    • Lesson3.4
      Lagging Skills
    • Lesson3.5
      Elicit Ideas from Students
    • Lesson3.6
      Effective Modeling
    • Lesson3.7
      Respectful Consequences
    • Lesson3.8
      Conclusion: Discipline Is About Trust
  • Adjusting Expectations 0/6

    People are motivated to take on challenges that they think they can be successful with. Let's make sure the expectations we have for students are reasonable and realistic.

    • Lesson4.1
      Why We Should Adjust Expectations
    • Lesson4.2
      Why Adjusting Expectations Isn’t Being “Soft”
    • Lesson4.3
      Examples of Adjusting Expectations
    • Lesson4.4
      Problem-Solving Conferences: What Are They?
    • Lesson4.5
      Steps in a Problem-Solving Conference
    • Lesson4.6
      How to Get Better at Running Problem-Solving Conferences
  • What We Say and How We Say It Matter 0/10

    • Lesson5.1
      What We Say and How We Say It Matter
    • Lesson5.2
      Rethinking Praise
    • Lesson5.3
      Rethinking Praise: Application
    • Lesson5.4
      Focus on Behaviors, Not Character
    • Lesson5.5
      Focus on Behavior, Not Character: Application
    • Lesson5.6
      Reduce Power Struggles: Use Language of the Rules
    • Lesson5.7
      Reduce Power Struggles: Use Language of the Rules: Application
    • Lesson5.8
      No One is Perfect: Be Ready to Apologize
    • Lesson5.9
      The Power of Names
    • Lesson5.10
      To Learn More About Effective Teacher Talk…
  • Wrap-Up and Conclusion 0/2

    • Lesson6.1
      What Have You Learned? What Will You Try?
    • Lesson6.2
      Be the Teacher Who Requests Challenging Kids
Mike Anderson has been an educator for more than 25 years. A public school teacher for 15 years, he has also taught preschool, coached swim teams, and taught university graduate level classes. He now works as a consultant providing professional learning for teachers throughout the US and beyond. In 2004, Mike was awarded a national Milken Educator Award, and in 2005 he was a finalist for NH Teacher of the Year. In 2020, he was awarded the Outstanding Educational Leader Award by NHASCD for his work as a consultant. A best-selling author, Mike has written eight books about great teaching and learning. When not working, Mike can be found hanging with his family, tending his perennial gardens, and searching for new running routes around his home in Durham, NH.


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    September 5, 2020

    I really enjoyed your course . So many help scenarios that I could relate to and do much better at. I extremely enjoyed the live interviews. All was very helpful. Definitely a lot to put in my tool box..

  2. Emily Howell
    September 23, 2020

    This was a lot of great material to listen to and read about! Thanks so much!


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