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In teaching students, classroom management is key to keeping students focused and on task. With unruly students, I first talked to the student privately to find out the problem. Maybe they didn't understand course material, and setting up a private signal for "I don't get it" would help. Sometimes, depending on the age of the students, parental contact would help. In addition, I talked to other teachers of the same student to find out what worked for them or was it only happening in my class and why. If the behavior was happening often, I checked in with the school counselor, nurse or police liason officer looking for other reasons which would help me figure out a course of action. Changing the arrangement of my room or seating charts sometimes would help. If none of the above worked, I simply had referral slips to the office signed and on my desk; when the behavior began, I sent them to the hall where I gave them the choice to return and behave or leave immediately for the office. Above all, don't take the behavior personally or let them see your frustration; keep a calm voice and let them choose.
Your first step is to familiarize yourself with the policies and support systems of your particular school. Every school has guidelines to which you must adhere.
The second most important thing is to remain calm and think of the behavioural issues not as a personal challenge or insult but simply as part of the practical daily task of classroom management.
Your top priority is ending any behaviour that affects other students' learning. You can sometimes do this simply by changing seating arrangements -- moving the friends who are gossipping together to opposite sides of the room. Sometimes asking the students questions about subject matter will get them back on track. For persistent offenders, you may need to report the behaviour to higher administrative levels.
Avoid giving unruly students excessive attention or showing that they are upsetting you, for that will re-inforce the bad behaviour.
In the education setting, it is perfectly alright to just stop speaking and wait patiently with a smile on your face while the talkers finish their conversation.
Maybe you have tried everything known to mankind, but my advice would be (in no particular order):
- Stare at them until they pay attention.
- Speak to them during break and nicely ask them to pay attention.
- Speak to their superior.
- Agree on specific ground rules before you begin.
- Ask them to leave. That way, the rest of the participants will probably pay attention and you get rid of the troublemakers.
- Bonk them over the head with a baseball bat.
Be mindful of your language. Misbehaving is different from being rude. Honor everyone as responsible and committed to learning.
Ask yourself what they "really" are saying by being rude. What's the message they are sending. Ask yourself, "Am I listening to them, encouraging their point of view, or is this some residual effect of a previous unsatisfactory learning experience." Make upfront "behavior requests" a "code of honor" or "ground rules" whichever term you prefer. Here are some examples: Be responsible for your own learning. Be on time. Respect everyone. Confidentiality. Adopt a learning attitude. Get agreement and buy in before starting! "Raise your hand if you will honor my requests." Don't assume you have it without some outward sign from all of your participants that they have given it to you. Make eye contact as you see their response. If they don't respond, ask why. Without this, in the future, the disrupter could say, "Well I didn't give you my word...I didn't say I would." Coach/facilitate/lecture from a place of giving and demanding respect. The rest of the people who are paying attention and contributing will resent your not taking charge of the "space". Why should they suffer? Use positive reinforcement for what you do want..."Thank you, great question." that kind of thing. Don't get triggered. Manage your emotions. What is also useful is to have someone they report to lead off the event and if they can, stay in the room to participate or observe. Then if worst comes to worst, invite this person to attend another event...ask them to leave. If appropriate, evaluations with space for comments also are good. When people know that you mean what you say and there are consequences for rudeness they will make different kinds of choices. Getting feedback is always a gift.
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