Managing Disruptive Students
To state the obvious, when things are going smoothly in the classroom, and students are attentive, responsive, interested and motivated, time flies by and the teaching process is made so much easier for all concerned. Accordingly, students perform better and achieve greater things without disruption.
However, as teachers, we have all experienced disruption in the classroom at one time or another. From low-level disturbances that frustratingly slow things down, such as whispering, passing notes, and texting, to disorders that cause upset and bring lessons to a shuddering halt. Managing disruptive students is key to a smooth learning experience.
There is nothing wrong with a class clown, nor fun and laughter in the classroom, as long as it’s done within the boundaries of the school rules, in good spirit, and doesn’t impede the learning process. In fact, fun is a powerful learning motivator and useful teaching aid.
Managing disruptive students is a subject much written about. Students are young, diverse individuals, each responding differently in a given situation and what works for one may not work for another. Here we list just a few simple pointers to help better manage disruptive students and diffuse confrontational situations without shouting, screaming, raised temperatures, and threats.
Be Prepared, Have a Plan
You will get lessons off to a good, positive start by preparing for them well. By planning and preparation before the start of class, you avoid boredom and restlessness creeping in while you’re getting organised. Delay encourages low-level disruptions which can often set the mood for the entire lesson. With good groundwork, you can grab the student’s attention from the very first minute; deliver a seamless, smoothly presented lesson, making it easier to retain interest and motivation.
Do Coax, Don’t Force It
Very often, teachers have to coax, almost force answers from students, but with disruptive students this can be a trigger for a worsening in their behaviour. With an audience, demanding a response nearly always results in resentment toward the teacher; an unhealthy condition that can fester and be difficult to repair, the longer it goes on.
Better to ask the question from someone sat close to the disruptive student, engage with this student and others nearby, encourage debate, and praise the responses you receive. Often, left slightly on the fringe of things, reticent students slowly become drawn into the discussion, offer opinions and contribute.
Do Debate, but Don’t Argue
Never argue or lose your cool with students, disruptive, or otherwise. By arguing, you put yourself on equal footing with the student; create a level playing field and a no-holds barred scenario. This totally negates the effects of accountability and leaves you wide open and easy prey for anyone else who feels like bickering.
Do Focus on the Other Students, but Don’t Forget the Difficult Ones
Scolding, or ignoring a difficult student is not a good way to manage your class; this will ultimately cause all students to dislike you. They will see two sides to you and will be wary and unsure of which face you’re wearing. Friction and stress is often contagious, destroying harmony and results in an overall deterioration of performance and achievement
Do Praise, but Don’t Give False Praise
Some of us make the mistake of heaping praise on difficult students for the least thing, in the hope this will lead to better things, improved behaviour, and an easier life. And this may work for you. However, often it doesn’t and only causes resentment among the other students. Most will see through condescending praise and behaviour at a glance, and you’ll risk losing the confidence and respect of everyone in an instant. Don’t send the wrong message.
The sad fact is the majority of disruptive students will say the reason for their behaviour is they simply don’t like their teacher. And if a student dislikes you, you can have a struggle on your hands to develop a relationship necessary and conducive to a learning environment.
In class, there is an audience of other students. By ignoring disruptive behaviour it will only get worse. Instead, make and follow a classroom management plan. Don’t ignore disruptive behaviour, but don’t get overly frustrated, stressed, and become a dour, regimentally focussed, all work and no play type.