Tips for Dealing with Disruptive Students
The amount of demands placed on us teachers can be overwhelming. Amongst other things, we are expected to keep test scores high, please our administrators, and run a productive, orderly classroom… not to mention develop good relationships with students and parents.
Even with a classroom of perfect students (does such a thing exist?) these goals can be difficult to achieve. But, when you are presented with one or more students who are consistently disruptive, it becomes almost impossible to meet your goals.
Fortunately, there are many resources to assist you. Here are a few of the most helpful tips and online resources to manage students who can be disruptive and keep your classroom moving smoothly.
6 Tips for Dealing with Disruptive Students
1. Set your expectations early. Work with students to create a list of classroom rules and consequences very early in the year. Make the list brief and to-the-point so students do not get overwhelmed. One code that has been proven successful is Effective Behavior Support. The basic tenements are that all staff recognize and abide by the same set of expectations for students. These expectations are explicitly taught to students and reinforced with consistent praise and rewards. The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice is an excellent resource for help implementing this program.
2. Treat all students with respect and compassion. This is not always easy. We are human. For a variety of reasons, particular students can simply be more or less enjoyable for you to be around. However, students are quick to pick up on favoritism or negative feelings. This can become an unfortunate cycle. If a child’s behavior causes you to harbor negative feelings towards him, he may sense your negativity and act out even more. Try breaking the cycle by spending one-on-one time with the student. Find a common interest or joke that makes you both laugh. Building a bond will help motivate the student to behave more appropriately.
3. Learn the “Matching Law”. This states that, “the rate of any given behavior matches the rate of reinforcement for that behavior.” What that means is that if positive social behavior is reinforced more frequently than aggressive behavior, the student will eventually choose positive behavior more often. So, while students may come into your classroom with a pre-learned set of behaviors, that behavior can be unlearned with consistent praise of positive choices.
4. Help the child be successful academically. Research shows that academic success and good behavior reinforce each other. Often discipline problems can be curbed just by ensuring that the child gets the necessary support to do well in school. Providing extra help in or out of the classroom can help boost the student’s confidence in her academic ability and, in turn, improve her behavior.
5. Address the behavior, not the person. It is important for students to understand that, while their behavior may not have been acceptable, they are still valued members of the community. Labeling students as “bad” or “troublemakers” can often result in more of the same negative behavior. Instead focus on concrete steps that they can take to change their behavior and reestablish their good standing in the classroom.
6. Ignore the little stuff. Focusing on every minor infraction will frustrate students and make them feel as if they can’t do anything right. This is particularly true for students with ADD or special needs. Giving them the space to fidget or talk during down times will help them focus when you need them to. KqED provides a helpful list of outlets for students who need time to fidget.
Effective classroom management is much easier when teachers are calm, focused and aware. Check out The Teacher’s Academy Course, Mindfulness in Education, to help implement this practice both for yourself and your students.
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