Stop Defiance in Your Classroom in 4 Simple Steps
Defying my orders, the student plumped down in the corner—conducting a sit-in. My first test had come. Shock engulfed me. Panic followed.
So I phoned a friend. An assistant principal took the line.
"You need to tell him he has two minutes to make a decision: get up and go back to his desk, or stay seated, and I will come down there to get him."
A minute in, the student realized the cost. He reoccupied his desk.
Handling defiance is one of the most challenging tasks we face as teachers. But with the right plan in place, we can control such acts with wisdom and diligence.
What to Do with a Defiant Student
Here are a few things I've learned about managing noncompliance in my classroom:
1. Remove a defiant student's audience.
I learned in Classroom Management 101 that the essential first step is to remove the audience.
If possible, send the student out into the hallway. The stakes rise when a student knows all eyes are on them.
Without the attention, the student is less likely to continue their defiance.
You can still do your best to remove the audience even when a student refuses to leave the classroom. If a student anchors himself in the corner, delay the situation for a short time.
Encourage the rest of your class to continue working. Once they are focused, calmly approach the defiant student. Don't yell. You'll bring back the audience.
Whisper in the student's ear, "You have one minute to do what I am asking you to do, or you can stay put, and I call for a principal to come get you."
Presenting the order as a choice works well for some students. Give them a time limit to make their decision. Time, as you know, is precious, so make it reasonable. If they refuse to obey, make the call. Don't delay.
2. Have a plan and execute it.
Chances are if you have a student who is willing to test you once, they'll try again—unless they know you're prepared and mean business.
Once you've removed the audience, make sure the student knows that you will not tolerate defiance in your classroom.
Then let them know your next move. I later talked one-on-one with the student who ignored my orders. I let him know his mom's cell phone would light up with my name on it after school.
I also told him and his parents that the next time he blatantly disregarded my orders, he would receive a discipline referral.
A few weeks later, he conducted another sit-in. He went home with a referral.
3. Contact parents and share your plan with them.
Communicating with parents is key when dealing with a defiant student. Take the time to notify parents of the situation.
Reflect and take notes of the student’s behavior before you call or email a guardian. You’ll be able to relay what happened with precision.
Most parents will want to join in and help deter future defiance from their child.
They'll appreciate your effort to reach out and keep them informed. Plus, parents may have seen similar behavior from their child at home. They may give you some insight into what may be causing some of their student's noncompliance in class.
And while nothing can excuse the child's behavior, any information you receive from a guardian may help you better assess and correct future defiance.
4. Communicate with students and let them know you care.
Turns out, the student ignoring my orders had a ton on his mind. Recent events clouded his thoughts. After talking to his parents, I realized he needed me in his corner.
His defiance was a call for help. Sure, some students disobey out of spite. But teachers must attempt to communicate with a noncompliant student no matter what.
Ignoring a student who is ignoring you is a missed opportunity.
Let your defiant student know you hear them. Give them your time. Remind them they have people at school who love and care for them. Ask if they would like to speak with someone beside you.
Maybe they’ll open up to a counselor or a principal. You can later check in with those people.
Always have the student’s best interest at heart, and show that you notice them.
Ignoring a student who is ignoring you is a missed opportunity.
At recess, I spent time playing catch with the student who was acting out. We talked about his basketball team, his favorite cartoons, his favorite music—anything and everything that brought a smile to his face.
His attitude brightened. He stood taller. Instead of turning his back on me when he didn’t get his way, he began doing what I asked.
He knew I cared. So he cared. And he started minding my instructions.
There are many ways to communicate with your defiant students. You can eat lunch with them, write them a hand-written letter, or talk to them at recess.
Pay attention to them. Instead of plumping down in a corner, a student who feels your love and care might dive right into your lesson.
regain control of your classroom
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