Students Ruin My Good Lesson Plans
What Can An Educator Do?
Educators want to do the right thing by their students, but sometimes they need another perspective on a problem.
What would you say to this first-year teacher?
Shawn runs around my middle school classroom like it's a track. Janyce shouts "I hate you and I hate this class." How can I handle them and teach the other kids in my history class? This is my first year of teaching (after a successful year of practice teaching where I was praised for helping improve the student test scores) and I work hard at planning lessons that are engaging and interactive. Yet, I can't make progress with these students disrupting class. What can I do?
They Crave Attention
Your students may just be looking for attention. There are various ways that students try to get attention. We need to communicate with the ones who might unconsciously be in need of affection or approval.
- Remove a student from the classroom as soon as he or she becomes disruptive. Be consistent if the behavior continues. Try to have a quiet conversation with the student, away from others, and see if you can find out what's really going on. If you do get some information, see if you can act on it. If not, let the student know that the outbursts will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences in the future per school policy.
- Communicate with the parents. Since it's so early in the year, you probably don’t know yet if there is parental support for either of these kids, but parents can demand changes from their kids, as they have tools to reinforce their demands (loss of privileges like cell phones, iPods, etc.).
- If you can't get parental support, talk with administrators. Running around the classroom can be dangerous and can put you and the school at legal risk.
- Assign lunch detentions. These hurt because kids value their time with their friends.
Help Students Create a Plan of Action
I am a counselor at an elementary school. This is the number one complaint for many of our new teachers. The students are testing you and your boundaries. Definitely try and involve the parents in resolving this behavioral problem (don't forget to let them know about their child's successes). Sometimes developing a plan of action with the child can help. A plan of action is when the student (with your guidance) identifies the areas that need improvement and what THEY plan to do to strengthen these areas. Post this POA in a place they can see it.
Get To Know Your Students
As someone who deals with at-risk students, I too recommend personal connection with the "squeaky wheels" on a personal, one-on-one level. Never confront in a negative way. Try verbal praise with the quiet students and exhibit the actions you'd prefer to see implemented by all!
Set aside times of standing and shaking out the stress - where everyone is up but not running around - maybe just wiggling or stretching.
Use the services and information of the parents if possible. Make them aware of the problem(s). Try to get some history on the child from their point of view and, if they've had prior teachers at that school, try to get info from teachers and counselors and look through their Cum files for background information.
-Guy A. Harrell
Give Students Choices
I'm big into giving kids choices: "Shawn, you can sit down, or leave. Which do you choose?" If he continues to run around, "I see you've chosen to leave." Then kick him out or summon someone to remove him.
My favorite reply to the "I hate this" remark (or any other inane complaint) is "Bummer." Add a knowing, commiserative nod. You appear sympathetic to the poor child's "discomfort," yet you invite no more comment. Kids have no response for this.
I find that when my sophomores are disruptive as a group, reminding them that they are creating more homework by wasting class time helps a lot. "The longer it takes us to get through this, the less time you'll have to work on the assignment, and then you'll have homework. If we're diligent (always my first vocabulary word of the year), we'll get done by the end of the hour and then have no homework." I've had good success with this.
After any disciplinary measure, try very hard to make your next interaction with the offender a positive one. Praise a right answer or the student's diligence, or try to have some fun with the whole class if it was a group discipline matter. This gets the kid(s) back on your side.
Please know that while you may seem like a "meanie" when you discipline rascals, MANY of your students are glad that you did. They won't say so to your face, but they want the rascals to stop cutting up even more than you do, and they appreciate your taking control.