What can you do when there is more than one student ‘misbehaving’ in your classroom?
Teachers often come to me bemoaning the fact that while they know the strategies to use for one off-task student, but they don’t know what to do when there is more than one student ‘misbehaving’.
This situation can feel overwhelming and you may need to look outside the box for answers to this dilemma.
Let’s look at what you can do:
1. Check the basics. Do you have clear expectations, reinforcement and consequences that are consistently applied? Do the students know exactly what is expected of them in this class with regard to behaviour and work tasks? How are they positively reinforced when they behave appropriately?
2. Check your lesson structure. A relevant and engaging curriculum, using student-centred pedagogy allowing for student choice will help reduce off task behaviour and improve academic results.
3. Identify the main protagonist and see what you can do to get him or her on side. What are they interested in and what are their strengths? Why are they disengaged from the class? What can you do about that? What is the function of their behaviour and how can they learn to meet their needs in appropriate ways?
4. Have a consistent approach. Is this class or student a problem for other teachers? Consider working together to address the issues in the class e.g. speaking to the class together, having a planned, consistent approach that all teachers follow, using each other’s class as respite when needed.
5. Call parents. Most parents are appalled to think their child is not behaving in class. The time this takes can be well worth the resulting improvement. Continue regular contact with parents until the issue is resolved.
6. Increase use of positive reinforcement for students who are on task. Change your focus to the students who are cooperating and use it to change the behaviour of the other students. Make it worth their while for students to work in your class by providing specific positive feedback and celebrating successes.
7. Build a positive classroom culture. Work on your relationships with all students in the class. If a group of students is disruptive then other students are being impacted. Consider a fresh start for everyone, including you!! Revisit, redesign and reteach your class expectations, give the students a voice in how the class is conducted and provide choice around work tasks either in how they are completed or in what order.
8. Hold a problem solving circle or class meeting to discuss what is going on in the class. For this to be successful you may need an outside party, either another teacher or an executive teacher who knows how to run this in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way that will build positive class culture.
9. Student expectations. Discuss with the class what they would like to see happen in the class and what they expect from you as a teacher. Be prepared to listen with an open mind and not take any of their comments personally.
10. Enlist a buddy teacher. Consider combining classes and team teaching with a colleague with whom you work well. Working with another teacher offers the opportunity to run your class in a completely different way e.g. in science one teacher may conduct the experiments in the lab while the other teacher runs the research component for a topic. Students could then be given a choice of when they complete tasks.
11. Change it up. The only person whose behaviour you can control is your own and changing your behaviour may influence the students. For example, if you give lots of attention to students who are off task, reducing the amount of attention may result in a reduction of that behaviour. Conversely if you ignore certain behaviours because you are unsure of how to respond, having a planned response and acting on it consistently can take the students by surprise thereby changing the dynamic.
Having a difficult class with a number of tricky students can be particularly challenging so make sure you are seeking assistance and support from your executive staff when you need it and taking time for yourself to regroup.
Sometimes taking a ‘mental health’ day does wonders for your ability to cope and giving you a different perspective.