This article was written by Adam Hatch - UC Berkeley graduate, son of a teacher, brother of a teacher, and a teacher himself. Adam started a unique English school in Taipei, Taiwan, where kids learn to research and write articles in English. The articles are published on the first ever English newspaper written by kids in Taiwan, called the Taipei Teen Tribune.
DO YOU WANT TO WRITE FOR BORED TEACHERS? CHECK OUT OUR GUIDELINES & SEND YOUR SUBMISSION TO: BLOG@BOREDTEACHERS.COM!
One of the biggest issues new teachers face is learning how to constructively manage a class once they've lost a measure of control and things get noisy. Every teacher has a story from their early days either about losing their cool with their class or about how they couldn’t seem to get a group to listen no matter what they tried. However, these teachers also go on to learn some expert management techniques for keeping students in-line. Here are five of the best ways for bringing your class back to order after they've lost focus:
1. Put out the fuse, don’t wait for the explosion.
Preventative class management is the best philosophy for maintaining good behavior in your group. In other words, the best way to quiet a noisy classroom is to never let it get there in the first place. Almost always an experienced teacher can identify sources of trouble before they become an issue. Pay attention to who is talking, where noise is coming from, and likely distractions, and gently address them before students lose focus. For example, if a student has brought something from home they are showing other students while you are talking, instead of breaking stride, gently walk over to the student, take their item, and put it on your desk, all while continuing to engage the class on your terms. You likely won’t even need to address the issue until later on, and in the meantime, you haven’t missed a beat with your lesson.
2. Make it about individuals, not the group.
When attempting to quiet down a class, some teachers engage their students as a group rather than individual participants. This is never the way to handle it - by speaking generally to everyone, no one takes any responsibility and everyone can avoid being reprimanded, thus making the process take longer, but also ensuring that it happens more frequently in the future. Instead, identify a few students who are driving the disturbance, and as gently as possible tell them to quiet down. Once you have spoken directly to one or two students who had been out of line, the rest of the class will quickly follow.
3. Learn the power of the whisper.
Crazy at it may sound, whispering to the class can be one of the most effective methods for getting your students to focus. Think about it - how often does raising your voice at your class only cause things to become louder and more chaotic? But if you visibly whisper directions while students are noisy, they will have to hush up in order to hear you. At first only one or two students might notice, but when they do, they begin “shushing” the rest of the class themselves, thus enlisting student help in restoring and maintaining order. Next time things are a little unruly in your classroom, take advantage of the power of the whisper.
4. Cultivate benevolent authority.
The best way to keep you class quiet and focused is to develop an overarching culture of respect and deference for you as the teacher. If you have established this sort of classroom, students rarely step out of line in the first place, and if things do begin to become chaotic it takes almost no time to bring the class back to order. Cultivate this type of respect and authority by being extremely good at your job and showing students that while you are firm, you are also fair. Show your willingness to be in charge by constantly moving around your classroom, being consistent in your treatment of students, and by establishing clear boundaries and expectations. If you do, the next time students get noisy, a simple and gentle “hey” will restore focus and attention immediately.
5. Always remember, make it about the actions, not the students.
When classes get crazy and students don’t seem to listen or respect you, it’s easy to take it personally and make the mistake of lashing out. As a professional and a role model, it’s imperative to avoid doing so. Instead of showing disappointment in students themselves, make your dissatisfaction about their specific behavior; instead of saying, “what is wrong with you?” say, “I’m upset that you’ve done this.” Show that you’re disappointed rather than angry, and let students know you expect them to be better and rise to the occasion. Difficult as it may be, keeping the focus on the action rather than the student will prevent toxic communication and resentment in your class, and it will ensure students learn from their mistakes rather than internalize that they are somehow deficient.
The reality is, at some point you will lose control of a class or let things go too far and have to double-down on the punishments and discipline. And while that is a learning experience in and of itself, it really is better to avoid it in the first place. Try to prevent a noisy and chaotic classroom in the first place, both by having ample respect from students and an ability for stopping problems before they start. And if things to start to get out of control, use our tips to bring everyone back. And if you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up - teaching is as much a learning experience as is being a student.