As part of your job as a teacher, you know that you can teach a well-behaved class. We all look forward to the days where the students are all self-motivated, ready to learn and prepared to listen. These classes do exist, but unfortunately so do their opposites.
Sometimes, the students simply aren’t in the mood. The class that doesn’t want to be there, that doesn’t want to hear what you have to say and isn’t interested in engaging positively is the class that needs you most. They’re difficult to manage at times, but they can be a learning experience for both teachers and students. If you’ve encountered a class like this, here’s how the Simply Education Experts suggest you handle it:
Start With Rules
The first impression you should be making with any class, disruptive or otherwise, is that your classroom is your castle. Be clear about what you expect, whether that is raised hands, a certain entry style, or how you’d like to be addressed. Then explain what will happen if those rules are broken - and make sure it’s something you’re prepared to do. You don’t have to come across as a strict disciplinarian if that isn’t your teaching style, but you do need to establish yourself as the authority and build their respect.
Stick With Your Rules
A broken rule isn’t a question of if, but a question of when. Students love to test teachers, and that questioning, curious nature is part of growing up. It should be nurtured, but with boundaries applied. After you’ve told your class what you expect of them, you need to make sure that you follow through if somebody crosses a line. Don’t rely on repeated warnings with no conclusion. Remind them once what will happen if there’s a rule broken, and then do it. If you hesitate or let them off, you’ll lose authority and credibility with your class.
Be as calm and positive as possible
It’s more than natural to be overwhelmed, angry and resentful. Unfortunately, letting the class know that they’ve got under your skin will only make things worse. They’ll relish the reaction and you’ll become less rational. Take a big deep breath and set a positive example for the way you’d like the class to behave. No raised voices, no personal comments and no outward signs of anger if you can possibly help it. If you need to take a minute, do so and tell the class that you’re going to take a breath.
For some students, you aren’t a person. You’re a teacher, a representation of authority and the requirement to be in the classroom from 9am instead of out doing what they want to do. Think about the teachers that you remember from school - the ones you connected with were the ones that shared a piece of themselves. If a class is routinely disruptive, it’s actually beneficial to relax a little instead of tightening the leash. Don’t drop the boundaries you’ve set, but find ways to work your own funny stories or some interactivity into the lesson. They’ll be able to relate with you and relax.
The ‘Why Am I Here’ Game
This is a method we found on the Teaching House blog. It’s used here as a last resort, but can be something you use at the beginning of the year to get your students in a positive frame of mind to learn. Ask for 100 words on “Why Am I Here’, either as an in-class assignment, a homework task or a presentation. Make it clear that ‘because I have to be’ isn’t an acceptable response. You’ll learn about what’s motivating your students, whether it’s their family, their life goals, their own personal hurdles. It can also be helpful for you to write and present as well. If they can see that you’re interested in improving their lives and helping them achieve their dreams instead of punishing them, classes often soften and behaviour will improve.
Learn From It
There are a lot of pieces of advice out there for teachers struggling with a class. You’ll soon learn what works and what doesn’t in the classes you are working with. Your goal isn’t to have complete control - it’s to build positive relationships with your students that benefit the both of you. You’ll learn to create a learning environment that everybody enjoys being in, and over time a disruptive class won’t faze you. Most teachers see disruptive classes as a negative thing. You should see them as a challenge to overcome.
Simply Education have worked with teachers for years, placing them in new jobs and supporting them throughout transitional periods. We understand the world of teaching, and the challenges that come as part of the job. If you’re looking for a new opportunity, or simply a consultation on where your next step could be, talk to your local team today.