Disruptive Students… What to do?

Disruption When we last met, we were talking about disruptive students.  Many teachers are foiled by these, and many classes become worthless due to student disruption.  I’ve been in many a class where open discussion is encouraged, even expected, but everyone in that class knows that the discussion needs to be relevant, wholesome, and adds value to the class.  There comes a point when certain scenarios need to be dealt with and class must go on.

CSU East Bay provides interesting insights on dealing with disruptive students.  Here are a few examples from their article:

Making unreasonable demands for time or attention: make a reasonable adjustment for a students’ requests, but at times it might be worth getting administrative staff involved for intervention.  I would also suggest having the student seek a tutor or additional support for their academic problems.
Continually speaking out of turn: Do your best to answer any relevant questions or respond to any comments related to your subject at hand, but be sure to make it clear (and it might take some reiteration) that the discussion should focus on the topic.  Any excess conversation should be conducted outside of class time.
Ringing cell phones, talking to other classmates, or audible distractions: Obviously there should be a policy put in place to minimize these, but my best suggestion would be to simply walk the class.  If you walk behind the person who is generating the distraction, they should get the hint and cease their interactions.  If this doesn’t work, then (in my opinion) you should address them directly and ask them to stop distracting the class.  Some teachers even ask for them to share their conversation (or text message if it’s a ringtone) with the whole class.  I’ve even seen some professors answer their students’ cell phone and ask the person on the other end not to call while the student is in class.
Threatening or abusive behavior: This enters into a whole different realm of classroom management.  If you have a threatening student, you have your own security (and that of the rest of the class) to keep in mind.  Take responsibility for the student and ask the disruptive student to leave.  If they refuse, then they should be escorted by you to the administrator.  You need to have a little more of a backbone in this scenario, but safety is key.  Don’t be a hero and try to do anything irrational.

I found a recent article from the National Education Association (NEA) on handling disruptive students,  It provides an interesting anecdote, and focuses mainly on threatening young adult students.  It names the interaction between teacher and student as a “delicate dance”.  This is true, as a teachers’ method of dealing with students can be a make-or-break situation.  It could set a bad precedent, make the students lose respect for the teacher, or even cause additional problems with other students in the class.  It’s important to deal with any scenario that way class can resume and education can continue.

What are some interesting stories that you’ve seen or heard?  Have you ever been the target of disruptive student behavior?  Let’s chat about it and share experiences!

Photo credit: Inspiring Teaching


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