At some point in their career, teachers will have to deal with a student so disruptive that the class can quickly become a nightmare. Perhaps the student talks through the lesson or throws objects in the middle of class. Sometimes, the student teases other classmates, making them uncomfortable. And when it comes to respecting the teacher, the student simply doesn’t. Sadly, teachers can find themselves in a type of purgatory – on the one hand, we are expected to reach and save every child whose footsteps grace our classroom, but on the other, we cannot let our students suffer at the hands of another. Before reaching the point of no return, however, teachers should attempt to correct the problem on their own.
Here are four things that you could try before asking administration to intervene. Please note that numbers 2 and 3 are interchangeable.
As obvious as it sounds, it should not be overlooked. Kids sometimes need reminders about what your classroom expectations are. Other times, kids are well aware of classroom expectations, but they will test the waters to see how good you are at administering them. Legislating bodies can create all the laws in the world, yet they are useless if they are not enforced. Speaking of classroom expectations, make sure you introduce them from day one. The students need to have a clear understanding of what is and is not acceptable in your classroom, whether you make the rules yourself or allow their input. By giving a warning, you are putting your students on alert. Just be swift about following the next step should any student ignore your warning.
# 2 Student Reflection
If the student is past the point of warning but is not too much of a nuisance to others in the classroom, then it is time for a reflection. This can be done verbally in an after-class chat or you can use a form. I am in the process of creating a form that requires students to describe their problem behaviors, explain why their behaviors are considered problems for themselves and others, list what causes their misbehaviors or what could help them improve, and record what future consequences they will experience should they continue to make bad choices. After completing the form, I will then take it and mini-conference with the student.
You can find all kinds of these forms online, many of which you can customize.
#3 Temporary Separation
Sometimes a student’s behavior is not downright atrocious but is still disruptive to the lesson and requires an immediate action. This could be a time out, a new seating arrangement, or banishing the child temporarily. I have a student desk next to my desk in case I need to separate a student from his or her peers. Other times, I have sent a student out into the hallway. Some teachers are nervous about this tactic for fear that the student will roam the hallways and cause other havoc. While this is certainly a possibility, I am not too concerned since we have cameras in our corridors. Most students know that they will only add to their problems should they act up and that they are fair game to any administrator who is walking the floor. I also peek out at the student from time to time, just to make sure.
Temporarily removing the student gives him or her a taste of what it feels like to be outside the classroom. I continue on with my lesson and am in no rush to finish it just because someone lost the privilege to be part of it. When I am able, I will quickly conference with the student and explain why he or she was removed in addition to reminding him or her that my job is to teach and to remove anything or anyone that interferes with my job. This is done diplomatically and non-threateningly; it is more matter-of-fact.
#4 Contact Parent
Finally, after giving students a few opportunities to correct issues on their own, teachers should contact parents and make them aware of the problem. Since I teach high school, I like to do this last before calling in the cavalry (aka: administration) because many of our students are standing on the precipice of adulthood. They need to be given an opportunity to solve their own problems, and we as teachers need to let them know that we are allowing them to do just that before the dreaded phone call or note home. There is nothing to say that teachers of younger students cannot do the same to some degree.
When the other interventions just aren’t working, though, it is time to give the parents a chance to set their kids on the right track. Make sure to start off with whatever positive things you can say about the student and explain that you gave him or her a few chances to fix things before they got out of hand. Most parents are receptive, I have found, while a few can get defensive or even hateful. Regardless of how parents take it, though, you should warn them that the next step will involve administration and the possibility of a more permanent removal from your classroom. It is up to you and the parents if you hold a conference after the phone call.
However you decide to manage your classroom, make sure you clearly document. Record student behaviors, your choice of intervention, and how the student responded. These records are handy for parents and administrators, but they are also useful as feedback when you determine which intervention steps work better than others. Hopefully, you never have to kick a student out of your classroom. But if you do, you should at least be able to reassure yourself that you tried to prevent the removal.