If Your Class is Out of Control
If your class is out of control, you are certainly not alone. Managing a roomful of rambunctious kids or hormone-driven teens is no simple task, and you can quickly lose control.
During my rookie year of teaching, I knew that I needed to have good classroom control, but I simply didn’t follow through and let too many little things slide. And by October, I was having some major issues in my classroom. I remember trying to teach over the roar of students’ private conversations, knowing that this just isn’t how it’s supposed to be. And apparently something pretty rough was going on behind my back while I was at the board because I found myself having a chat with the principal about how I needed to muster my authority and start controlling my classes.
It was discouraging and frustrating to realize that my classroom was not what I wanted it to be. But the wake-up call was timely and marked the start of my classroom turnaround. I would love to tell you that by the next week my classes were all orderly and on task, but that’s just not the case. It took time for me to figure out a good system, to gain confidence as a classroom manager, and to show the kids that I was going to follow through and hold them accountable. But things did improve, and when the next year started, I was good to go.
You CAN gain control of you class. I won’t sugar coat it and say it’ll be an easy process. Growth is never easy, but it is most certainly worth it.
How to Gain Control of Your Class
- Take a deep breath. No, seriously, take a deep breath. Ready? Breathe in, breathe out. If your classroom is out of control you are probably freaking out, but take a minute to relax. It will be okay! You will get through this. You will improve. It will take time, but you will look back on this later and see how far you came. Don’t be discouraged.
- Seek advice. Talk to an administrator or a veteran teacher and get advice about your specific situation. Or, join our Facebook discussion group Christian Teachers’ Lounge. Encouraging Teachers is another great group.
- Determine your expectations. Decide which student behaviors need to be corrected. Make a list of your expectations.
- Determine your consequences. While positive reinforcement is important and necessary, if your classroom is out of control, positive motivation alone will not correct that. You simply have to have consequences. Determine what the consequences will be each time a student fails to meet one of the expectations on your list.
Don’t plan a harsh response for the first infraction. Not only is this unfair to your students, but it will also make you hesitant to address them. Consider a formal warning system by which you give a student a warning for the first infraction (in the form of a name on the board, a post-it note on the desk, etc.). Then decide what reasonable consequence you will give for subsequent infractions. (For details about the system I used, read my post How to Calm a Disruptive Class.)
- Build your confidence. If your class is out of control, chances are you’re plagued the same problem I was – a lack of confidence. But if you’re not confident in your ability to discipline, the kids will see this and take advantage (haven’t they already?) The way to overcome this is to build your confidence with practice. Stand in front of a mirror and practice what you will say the first time a student talks without permission. Practice until you’re comfortable and confident in what you will say. Then move on to the next infraction. Practice every scenario you can think of. You can even bring in friends or family to roleplay your students. Keep working until you’re confident you’ll know what to say to your students. (As you plan your responses, remember to be kind but firm.)
- Have a talk with the class. Once you’re prepared and have practiced your responses, have an honest discussion with your class. Apologize for allowing them to get out of control, and tell them that you are starting a new system today. Explain your expectations and the consequences they will receive if they do not meet them. Consider having them in written form and asking each student to sign the bottom saying that they understand the expectations. Throughout the conversation, be kind but firm. Don’t lecture the students on their past behavior but simply explain that things will be different from now on.
- Address the very first problem. While you discussion may (or may not) get the students’ attention, it will not change anything unless you address the very first problem. It may be two seconds after the discussion or halfway into class. Either way, address the problem right away with your predetermined response.
- Stay consistent. The more consistent you are, the more quickly you will regain control. It won’t be easy, but you need to address every problem with your predetermined response. After a few weeks or months, you may be able to loosen up, but don’t let anything go until you’re confident that your class is under control.
If you want more strategies for improving your classroom, download my book Create Your Dream Classroom. I share the lessons I learned as a new teacher and guide you through a process of evaluation and improvement so that you can conquer the learning curve and create the classroom you’ve always wanted. You can also download our free e-book 101 Teaching Tips.
What is your biggest classroom management struggle? What strategies have helped you control your classroom?
Photo by Hammerhead