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Make Love not War – How to Control an Unruly Class

This article is contributed by Heather Johnson, who regularly writes on California teacher certification. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address: heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.

Teaching children is arguably the most taxing job in the world — it demands a great deal of patience and tolerance all through the day, every day of school. A good teacher takes the extra effort needed to ensure that the children understand what’s taught, not just in the way of lessons but in the way of life too. Sometimes a teacher’s patience is put to the test in the form of difficult students, those who will just not fall in line with the rest of the class. And at others, the whole class acts up and there’s chaos all round. At times like this, it’s no use shouting and tearing out your hair in an attempt to regain control of your unruly class. Instead, keep your wits about you and try to restore order in a systematic way. The following tips should help in such situations:

  • Very often, you’ll find that the confusion and noise are the result of the handiwork of just a few miscreants who are bent on causing trouble. If you can ferret them out and segregate them from the rest of the class, you’ll find that you have an easier time of controlling the class.
  • The troublemakers are often just seeking attention with their attempts to disrupt the class and lessons. Instead of taking them to task in front of their classmates and embarrassing them, talk to them in private and try to understand why they play up in class.
  • Children who cry out for attention in negative ways are often neglected at home or are affected badly by other problems that add to their mental stress. They may feel inadequate because they are poor at lessons and have trouble keeping up with class work. Punishment only adds to their belligerence and does not do anything positive to help them overcome their shortcomings. Offer to help them out with lessons or homework till they’re able to catch up with the rest of the class.
  • Sometimes there’s a student who’s designated class clown without a formal coronation or ceremony. He/she feels the need to make the other kids laugh all the time, even at the cost of getting into trouble. The clown does not realize the seriousness of his/her activities and is breezy and even irreverent in the face of your reprimands. A serious talking-to helps in such cases. Make the student work on the positive aspects of having a great sense of humor.
  • Instead of shouting at random people in the class, sit at your desk and wait patiently for the din to die down. If your patience does not pay, punish the class as a whole rather than just one or two students.
  • Positive words and actions help in keeping order in the classroom. Praise works wonders when offered at the right time and in the right spirit without sounding contrived or exaggerated.
  • Making your classes creative and interesting engages the children’s attention and does not allow them to misbehave or cause trouble. Make the effort to add something innovative to each day’s lesson so that the kids look forward to them.
See also  Classroom Out of Control? JD2718 Has Some Great Comments

Kindness dealt with a firm hand works wonders in keeping a class under control. Understand even as you let the children know that they cannot walk all over you. The difference between a good and great teacher likes in how he/she handles not just lessons, but also a class full of little human beings.

2 thoughts on “Make Love not War – How to Control an Unruly Class

  1. Hi Heather,
    You are right that teaching has to be one of the most taxing jobs! I liked your comments and only disagree with you on one point—punishing the whole class when the room is noisy. I have found that if I speak to them and say they will have to give me some of their recess time if they don’t calm down, most of them will. Then the ones who don’t are the ones who receive the consequences at recess time.

    I know I feel this way because I am the mother of two quiet children—notice I didn’t say perfect children—-and they had to miss recess sometimes because the class was noisy. I have also seen some of my first grade students, who almost always follow the rules, be punished with the whole class (by lunchroom workers) when they were sitting quietly. I know that sometimes this means very few kids in the class who are trying to comply with the rules, but I think it is grossly unfair to those students. After a while, they would probably think—why even try?

    I think you probably meant to only use this rule when all else fails—and sometimes everything else DOES fail. I’ve just seen some teachers use this method A LOT and I hope new teachers won’t pick it up.

  2. I agree. I have also found that many times I can catch it before it escalates. I am not one to have a silent classroom. I am just alert and pay attention if the noise begins to rise above the norm. Then I take action before chaos ensues.

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