Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Teach Like a Champ with Disruptive Students

Classroom Management and Helping Everyone Achieve

Keeping a calm head as a teacher when faced with a disruptive class is a learned skill. Most classrooms, designed to accommodate a maximum number of young minds, come loaded with inherent personality conflicts. How to turn this battleground into a community of goal-orientated, successful minds was one of the most challenging lessons I ever had to learn.

Student Concerns
 
Often, students come to class with their own agenda, thinking they can do the minimal amount of work as soon as they figure out what that might be. These factors include homework completion, attendance, and paper requirements. Some tell me right away they are only in my class as a graduation requirement, and really don't think they need to be there.
I teach mostly composition classes- yes, you need to be there. It's my mantra with classroom management.

How teachers gradePersonal Resolution
 
Early in my career, I felt intimidated to confront disruptive students with behavior issues, afraid of how they would react. I let cursing slide, accepted late homework with no penalty, and would forgive an essay that was missing half of the required assigned pages. I began to feel I was a babysitter rather
than a college professor. I knew I had to put my foot down if I was going to keep teaching.

Anger Issues
 
The opportunity soon presented itself. On the first day of the next semester, I met a student who was enraged that he had to take an English class in order to receive his degree in Criminal Justice. After arriving the first day an hour late, he interrupted my syllabus review to announce he wasn't going to be coming to class much, and that he wanted to hand all of his papers in that night. His statement was riddled with expletives.

I paused the review and spoke bluntly, as much to him as the rest of the class. I told him when assignment topics were given, and there were no exceptions. He scoffed, but when I looked him in the eye and told him it was my way or the highway and it didn't affect me personally either way, I truly believe I truly saw the light go off in his head. He became my most punctual student that semester, passing with a C+. The myth of the perpetually disruptive students destroying classroom management is simply hogwash.

First Night, Lay It All Out
 
These days, I say it like it is. During the syllabus review on the first night, I tell the students I expect them to succeed, and if they do their best work, hand it in on time, and come to class, I guarantee they will pass. And it's true. Those who don't listen, learn this lesson the hard way by failing. Those who do are glad someone gave it to them straight, and go on to become better students for it and actually help me with classroom management.

I couldn't be prouder. I still have disruptive students, but fewer by far, and those that don't change don't last.