There will be times in your teaching career where you will have to deal with an extremely disruptive class. The students may have such a low sense of respect for the school, for you and unfortunately, for themselves they don’t worry about the impact their behaviour is having. The question for the teacher is ‘where to start’? There are so many inappropriate behaviours it appears to be overwhelming. Too often we just start to ‘fix everything’ and that becomes impossible so this Newsletter will provide a structured approach to taming this class.
The illustration below shows a range of problems faced in the class. Instead of trying to deal with all of them, choosing one concentrates the teacher’s efforts. This doesn’t mean you accept the other behaviours, you do what you have been doing but by making a real, extra effort on one you can make a difference.
Now you have chosen the issue you want to address take the following steps to solve this problem. You do this by creating classroom rules. Before we start just a reminder that it is most effective if you include the class in this process but if they are not willing to engage you can implement this by yourself or if you can with colleagues. The process follows these steps:
1. Identify the Real Problem
Because you think ‘it’s annoying’ is not a reason you will get support from the class. You have to identify what really is the problem with talking and you need to acknowledge there are times you want your student to talk but at the right time for the right reason. Remember this is ‘inappropriate talking’ that we are concerned with. The class will soon identify, with your help plenty of reasons this is hurting their learning. These include things like ‘no one else can hear the teacher’, ‘it’s rude to talk when others are trying to listen’, ‘it interrupts others who are trying to concentrate’ etc. Eventually you will get to the real problem hopefully that the class agrees with or at least they are told why inappropriate talking hurts their learning.
The final purpose might be as follows:
- Talking when someone else is, stops that person being heard and stops learning. Talking too loud distracts others from learning both here and in other classes
Then write this down as the problem we are going to solve, put it on display - Inappropriate Talking Stops Learning.
2. Brainstorm Possible Solutions
Once you have identified the problem get the class, including yourself to brainstorm possible consequences. Stick to brainstorming ‘rules’ that is don’t discuss them as they are suggested just get them down. One exception to this is when they come up with ridiculous but funny ideas. If such a proposal gets a laugh then you can bet more will follow. Allow one, sometimes these are gems but stop it there.
A Typical List might be:
Sent from class – Yelled at – Given a warning – Given the cane
Write lines – Given homework – Cut out their tongue
Clean-up the playground – Kept in to make up time
Sent to principal – Made to stand in the corner – Shift seats
3. Yes/ No the Solutions
Now, for the first time you discuss each consequence using the following criteria:
- Is it a consequence or is it a punishment? The difference has been explained in a previous Newsletter but briefly, a consequence is understood to be a result of that action not just something the teacher made-up to upset the student!
- Is the consequence appropriate for the level of the behaviour? You might find that students are often too severe in their idea of what is required, Keep these realistic.
- Can the consequence be realistically applied? It’s no use putting in place a consequence that is against the rules of the school or department. For instance you can’t keep students in after school without a lot of parental permission.
- Do the students accept this as a fair outcome for that behaviour? It must be seen to be fair for all concerned.
Then place a Y beside those that meet the criteria and N against those that fail to pass the fairness test.
The following could be the result of this process.
Sent from class Y – Yelled at N – Given a warning Y – Given the cane N
Write lines N – Given homework N – Cut out their tongue N
Clean-up the playground N – Kept in to make up time Y
Sent to principal Y – Made to stand in the corner N – Shift seats Y
When you have completed this process eliminate the N’s.
4. Rank the Consequences
Now you go through the consequences left and rank them from the most severe (1) to the least severe. The final list might be:
Sent to principal (1)
Sent from class (2)
Shift seats (3)
Keep in to make up time (4)
Apologies to the class (5)
Given a warning (6)
Here you must decide if you want to have one consequence or devise a cascade from the least severe on to the most. If the mild level consequence does not stop the behaviour the next most punitive one is applied and so on until the student is sent to the principal! When you have decided on the ‘rule’ then write it down and display it somewhere in the classroom so the students are reminded of the new set of conditions in the class.
After the rule has been in place for a reasonable amount of time it is wise to evaluate how effective it has been in dealing with the disruptive behaviour. Wait a while to do this evaluation because quite often when you introduce a rule the students who are most likely to cause problems will test to see if you are serious. This is where our ‘golden rule’ for behaviour management comes in. Always be consistent and persistent, if you are not the students will not think you a sincere! But if, after a time there is no change, and you have been vigilant then you can repeat the steps coming up with a new set of consequences. If the class has not really been changed by the rule you put in maybe it is time for you to set the rule without them. Just make sure they know what is going to happen.
If the behaviour has changed then slowly let it fade away, the class has accepted a new standard. Then you can work on another of the problems you identified.
Remember there are some behaviours that are dangerous our just too severe to go through this process and are not up for negotiation! These you must deal with. But for most dysfunctional behaviour this approach will allow you to take ‘control’ or more realistically have the students take control of their actions. A pay-off is that when you get on top of a few of the behaviours most classes come to understand that you can make things change and you are in charge of providing a safe learning environment for them. When you gain such a reputation life becomes better in other classes so it is well worth the effort!