It happens to every teacher at some point. Sometimes it is with the first class. Other times a teacher gets a few good years under his or her belt before it hits. Sometimes it seems like it happens in class after class. The problem that all too often rears its ugly head is lack of discipline. Every teacher experiences it, and no teacher likes it. The good news is that there are ways to handle indiscipline in the classroom. Here are some tips to try with your students.
How to Deal with Indiscipline in the Classroom
Set Expectations Early
Set expectations early in the year. The old adage that a good teacher does not smile until after Christmas may or may not be true, but it is easier to lighten your leadership style as the year goes on rather than get stricter after being lenient. If it is too late to start the year off with a firm hand, you can always make a new start – with either a new calendar year or a new month or a new unit. Make sure your class knows that your are wiping the slate and that your expectations of them will no longer be compromised!
Make Rules Together
Let kids be involved in making the rules. Before dictating a set of classroom rules, ask your students how they would like their peers to behave. Have them discuss what kind of an environment they would like to have in class. By directing a class discussion, your students will define a set of rules that meet both their criteria and your own. Because they have set the expectations, they are more likely to follow the rules and to keep one another in check, freeing you to do things that are more important.
Depending on where you teach and where your students come from, their parents may be an unexpected support when it comes to good behavior in the classroom. Often American parents will side with the child when it comes to conflicts in school, but if you teach students from other cultures, and it is very likely that you do, your students’ parents will not automatically take their children’s side of things. In fact in many cultures, parents will automatically side with the teacher against their own child if there is a discipline issue. That is not to say that you should take advantage of either your students or their parents, just do not be afraid to approach your kids’ parents if the situation necessitates it. Be warned, though, you may not want the child to act as interpretor if one is necessary.
Depending on the age of your students, you may even choose to ask parents into the classroom as volunteers for a day. Children may behave better if their parents are in the classroom with them. Not only that, if your parents interact with each other, the stories of how a certain child may behave in class could get back to mom and dad through other channels ultimately saving you an awkward and unpleasant conversation!
Invite Another Teacher
Trading teachers could be helpful in your quest for a composed classroom. If your students have gotten used to the way you operate class and what behavior you may let slide, having a different teacher for one or more periods of the day may spur them to act a little more restrained. Not only can the atmosphere of class change, your students will benefit from listening to another voice and another style of speech when another teacher stands in front of the class.
Why, Oh Why?
Think about the reason behind the rudeness. Is it possible that your ESL students may be acting up to make up for a self-perceived inadequacy in their language abilities? If there is even the slightest possibility that insecurity may be behind classroom misbehavior, try to look past it and address the real issue. Does your student need confidence? Does she need a feeling of success? Does he need to feel equal to his peers? By addressing the issue rather than the symptoms, you will have a healthier and better-behaved set of students.
Quick Learner Detected
It is also possible that a misbehaving student is bored with class because he is a quick learner. Though it may seem counterintuitive, putting that child in a leadership role may give him the extra challenge he needs to engage in the classroom activities. He will not only not be bored; he will have some investment in making sure the other students in class behave.
Remembering the attention span of children can also help you keep your calm when kids act up in class. As a rule, estimate a child’s attention span to be one minute for every year of his age. That means a seven year old will max out on attention at seven minutes. Keep the pace moving in class without spending too much time sitting in one place. Let your kids move around, go outside or work independently to keep the (stir) crazy bugs from biting.
Respond, Not React
It is extremely important for teachers to remember to respond and not react. There is a big difference between the two. A person who reacts acts impulsively and out of emotion. The person who responds, on the other hand, takes more time before acting and separates his or her emotions from the decisions he makes. It is a good rule to follow in all areas of life, but it is especially important to remember when your class is just plain getting on your nerves. Do not let your emotions get the better of you but instead stay calm and make logical and intentional responses.
Discipline In Private
Still, moments will come and days will come when one or more of your students will misbehave. The best way to address the situation is quickly and with as little disruption as possible. Refrain from disciplining any child in front of the class. Choose instead to have those conversations in private. If you respect your students, they are more likely to respect you.
Ultimately, no classroom is perfect. Your kids will have good and bad days, and you will, too.
Do your best to keep your cool when your students start getting out of control. Tomorrow will be a new day with limitless potential and it may just be the right day to get off to a new start!