7 Ways to Handle Classroom Interruptions Like a Boss
This article was written by Ben Kissam — a middle school teacher and high-performance coach. He helps professionals achieve goals, perform better, and find work-life balance. Check him out on his website.
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1. The “stern, but loving” technique.
The student yells out, but you have enough patience to deal with it calmly and effectively. The perpetrator’s voice is heard, and the other students might even give you props for dealing with the difficult student. In a perfect world, this is how a teacher always handles interruptions.
Unfortunately, this technique probably only applies to periods scheduled before 10am.
“Thank you for that contribution Derek, but let’s keep our thoughts to ourselves for the rest of class. Remember others are learning here, too.”
2. The “stern, and not loving” technique.
The same student said the same thing as #1, only it happened during your last period class.
“Unless your comment has to do with the U.S. Civil War, I don’t want to see your mouth open again until the bell rings.”
3. The “I’m one of you” technique.
In an effort to appear relatable and not razzled by the interruption, you match the energy of the interruption. In some cases, you may choose to extend or add depth to the interruption.
Sometimes, teachers have to be like chameleons and blend in with their surroundings.
“Yes, it is likely Romeo would have likely slid into Juliet’s DMs if this happened in 2017. Good point Matthew!”
4. The “half-laugh, then rebound” technique.
In any setting but school, you’d burst into laughter for the hilariously inappropriate comment a student just made. But you’re their teacher, so that isn’t a good idea. You simply file it into your brain and fantasize about telling your teacher friends what was said at lunch.
A split second separates your visceral response of laughter and you taking control of the class. Blink and you’ll miss it- most kids do.
*brief pause*...... “That is NOT appropriate Claire! I don’t want to hear it again.”
5. The “somehow connect the interruption to the lesson” technique.
Every so often, you find a way to make magic out of a classroom interruption. Somehow, you manage to connect a totally irrelevant and inappropriate comment to the lesson you’re teaching.
While the connection is almost guaranteed to fall under the category of “vague life lessons”, you should still pat yourself on the back for the quick thinking.
“It might not make sense yet, but you will see in high school how important it is to think about things like this.”
6. The “make an example of ‘how not to act’ to your class” technique.
This technique usually applies to the one student that notoriously interrupts your class. The umpteenth interruption leads to a feigned calm conversation with your class about the choices this student is making and how, if he or she continues, they are setting themselves up for failure later in life.
In truth, you’re attempting to use reverse psychology by stating that the behavior doesn’t bother you, but should bother the trouble student. It works sometimes, but not often.
The kids have no idea how close you are to actually losing it during this conversation. You probably use this technique most the week before holiday breaks and leading up to big exams.
“At this point, Victor’s behavior is only hurting himself. It isn’t bothering me, but it should bother him. And his behavior will not affect anyone’s learning but his own.”
7. The “I’m human too” technique.
In a last ditch effort to regain control of your classroom after an interruption, you use vulnerability to manage your student’s behavior. The goal is that they will empathize with you and basically switch roles, providing support and courage for you to find strength to make it through the day.
This is literally the last tool in your toolbox, so be careful. It can only come out a few times a year or you’ll be labeled “the teacher that cries a lot in class”.
“We all have bad days, guys. I’m having a bad day right now. My apartment flooded last night, and I barely got any sleep. I’m asking for you to help me out with your behavior today. Will you help me out? Please?”
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