The Tomorrow’s Professor blog from Standford University recently gave tips on how to deal with disruptive students. As we don’t have any of these at PRTS, of course, I thought I’d pass them on to other teachers; but also to parents, because so many of the points apply to parenting also.
The rather lengthy (@3000 word blog post) deals with many kinds of disruptive behavior and offers many helpful tips for various teaching (and parenting situations). It also outlines a ten-step approach for dealing with disruptive students (and children?) which I’ve summarized below:
1. Don’t take the disruption personally: Focus on the distraction rather than on the student. By remaining objective and not taking the situation personally, you can respond in a calm manner.
2. Stay calm: You will be much more authoritative when you are perceived to be dealing with the distraction in a composed manner and when students believe that you like them.
3. Decide when you will deal with the situation: Quickly and briefly in class or privately and at length after class. Allow students to save face where possible.
4. Be polite: It is far better to say “I’d like to continue with the class” or “It is important that you concentrate for the next few minutes” than “Don’t talk when I’m talking.”
5. Listen to the student: Really listen to what a disruptive student is saying. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what is lying behind the disruption.
6. Check you understand: Ask questions until you have enough information to understand the situation.
7. Decide what you’re going to do: Think win-win but always prioritize the learning experience of the non-disruptive students.
8. Explain your decision to the student: Tell the students what you have decided, explain your rationale and check they understand.
9. Follow through: You must do what you said you would do!
10. Document your decisions: Where the disruption has resulted in significant action it is a good idea to document the nature of the disruption, your actions and the rationale for your decision. This will help you to reflect and evaluate.
The article closes with this cheery reminder: “Finally, remember that most students (and children?) are polite and helpful and want to learn!”
Read the whole post here, or the book from which the article is extracted: Making Teaching Work: Teaching Smarter in Post-Compulsory Education.