10 Strategies for Teachers: How to Deal with a Disruptive Class

Classroom Management Strategies

I am getting ready to start my 22nd year of teaching. I have had many interesting experiences and have learned several classroom management strategies along the way.

I would like to share these important techniques with others, such as new teachers, veteran teachers, or anyone who deals with disruptive teens. Exercising good management strategies can be the difference between having a great year or a miserable year with your students or teens.

1. Have a sense of humor.

In the classroom, you have to have a sense of humor. If you do not, the kids will not like you and you will not like the kids because there will be a disconnect. Using a sense of humor with high schoolers is the best way to disarm a bad situation. You also have to be careful with your sense of humor. If you carry it too far and students do not understand their limits, you could have a potential rowdy class who thinks you are a clown who can be a push over. Dispel this notion by constantly giving the kids guidelines. Once they have the guidelines for classroom behavior, they will “get” your sense of humor.

2. Never raise your voice.

A disruptive class is just waiting for you to raise your voice or yell at them. They love it. It gives them a chance to raise their voice and argue back. They love retelling stories about the teachers who "lost it." They love knowing they were the ones who caused it. Be careful that you don't show up in their Twitter feeds. Do not give them the pleasure. Calm, cool, and collected is the key.

3. The silent stare.

When my classes are talking too much or out of their seats, I stand in front of the class and simple stare at the class. One of the students gets the hint. Then I hear, “Shhh, shhh, shhh!” all over the room. I act like I did not even recognize the loudness in the room, and I start or resume.

There have been a few times that it has taken a class too long to quiet down. In those few occasions, I say, “Obviously, you know what is going on today. The assignment is on the board. I am not wasting my time with you. You are on your own.” They are all aghast. I go back to my desk, and one at a time the kids trickle back asking for help. This may seem harsh, but it works. I do eventually go back to the front of the room and ask in a humorous, sarcastic tone, "Would you like me to explain?" They usually give a resounding, "Yes!"

Even though they would like to make you think you are unimportant at times, most of them know they need you.

4. Learn their names.

I have to admit, learning their names is the hardest part for me. I start looking at rosters over the summer.

If you have a troublemaker in class, you want to be able to call that student by name on the first day of school. Unfortunately, the ones who want to cause problems are the ones easiest to remember.

The kids who do not say much are the ones I need to work on most.

Remembering their names shows all your students that you care about who they are and what they do. Many times, just knowing a name will help stop a kid from creating trouble.

5. Send the first disrupter to the hall and the second to the office.

In the beginning of the year, you must set the tone.

If they are going to make trouble in my class, I give the first warning, “The first one goes to the hall and the second one goes to the office.” There are usually at least two pushing the buttons - many times together.

You must follow through with the threat so they know you mean business. When you show them in the beginning of the year that your objective is to teach them and not babysit them, they get the message quick.

Students love to test teachers. Not because they are "bad" but because they are kids. Try to remember your own school days so you can relate to them before it is irreparable.

When you send a kid to the hall, make time to discuss the problem clearly. Some students, even in high school, do not understand why they are being disciplined. Make it clear in a way that lets the student know you want their success.

The same goes for if you send a student to the office. Find a time to discuss what happened to lead to the discipline. If kids know you are still on their side, they will try harder to do better for you.

6. Let your administrators know about your class.

This past year, I had a class full of boys who were childhood friends and loved to have fun and aggravate. They wanted the tone to be a “them against the teacher” tone and made it clear from the beginning.

I went to the administration about it. They knew the boys already, not just from having them in their office but also knowing them in the community. These were not bad kids. They just wanted to have fun. I totally related. Letting the administrators know about the situation prepares you and them for any situation that might arise.

7. Have administrators visit.

After I let my administrators know, they would periodically show up in the room either a couple of them or just one. What I loved was that they never made it seem like a visit for discipline. They would come in, ask how I was doing, ask the kids how it was going, and actually conversed with them. It gave the kids a good feeling to be recognized by the administrators in a good light rather than in the cloak of shame when they are sitting in the office.

When you have a disruptive class, the administrators can really have a positive influence by just making an appearance and showing interest. You must let them in on the situation, and tell them you want them as a preventative measure, not a last resort.

8. Never let them know they are getting under your skin.

As soon as you let a disruptive class know that they have gotten under your skin, they have you right where they want you: angry, agitated, anxious, defensive. No, no, no! Do not allow this to happen.

Again, you have to set guidelines from the first day. You must also loosen up enough that you can find humor in something they just did that you would not otherwise find humorous. You will have a miserable year if you allow them to make you show what you are actually feeling. They love it when you “go off the deep end,” especially in the beginning when they do not know you.

Keep reminding yourself that their success is your success. You just need to control the type of success.

9. Treat students with respect.

From the first day, always remember you are the adult and they are the student. You must also show them respect if you want to receive it in return.

If a kid is constantly acting up in class and nothing has worked, go out in the hall with the kid and say, “Listen, you are disrupting class which is not good for anyone. There are students in there who want to learn, and you are keeping them from it. I know you are just having a good time, and I don’t think you are a bad kid. It is just that you and I each have a job to do in there. You need to be quiet and calm while I am teaching, and I need to keep my focus. There are appropriate times for this type of behavior, but in the middle of class or work time is not the time or the place. Now, let’s go back in and act like decent human beings to each other.”

That last line usually gets a smile. I treat a disruptor with respect (when their behavior hasn’t gone overboard), and in return we go back into the class and things are better. Kids need to know adults understand and respect them. Sometimes, the teacher does have to send the student to the office. Many times it can be handled one-on-one and a new respect for each other grows from those times.

There are times that you have to constantly work on that student-teacher relationship.

10. Tell the disruptive student you do not need his or her help.

It is inevitable. You will have one kid misbehaving, you tell the kid to stop talking or tapping his pencil or getting up and down out of his seat or whistling or whatever other annoying thing the kid can come up with to disrupt the class.

Once you tell the kid to stop, you have another kid mock you by saying, “Yeah, stop that. Don’t you know you are annoying everyone else?” These kids are in high school. Most completely understand the dynamics of the class: good and bad.

When a kid “appears” to be “helping” you with discipline, it is probably a case of mocking you to get a laugh or to get a group to start in on their buddy to create the drama. I simply say, “I have it handled, and I don’t need your help.” Abrupt and to the point. They know when they have crossed the line.

You are Going to be All Right

I hope these are helpful tips to get you started on a good school year.

It doesn't matter if you are a new teacher or a veteran teacher who sees a problem with a class of 35 – 40 students coming in; using clear strategies will help your year go by much smoother for you and your students.

The strategies also allow you to build relationships with students rather than letting constant tension control the classroom.

Some educators may disagree, but going in strong sets up the tone for the year. You can always loosen up as you see fit throughout the year.

© 2011 Susan Holland

Comments 36 comments

munirahmadmughal profile image

munirahmadmughal 5 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

"Ten teaching Strategies for a disruptive class"

The hub is informative and useful.

The tips given are based on practice. Each class has different kinds of students with different circumstances hence a teacher is to adopt himself or herself according as to the situation in which he or she is confronted.

A teacher must read some elementary book on psychology so that the situation may be controlled on sound principles. Mere Hall or office strategies also fail in certain circumstances. The teacher is to learn more about own self as it is teachers behaviour that is going to be appreciated or mimicked.

A cool, balanced, humourous and yet keeping all attentive to the lesson of the day is of course a good idea.

May God blesss All,.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks for reading, Munira. Yes, every class and student is different. These strategies work very well for classes that are disruptive. Each individual strategy can be used for several different situations. If you liked this hub, you might like Part 2: Thanks for reading!!

Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago

Indeed these are great strategies! If only more teachers were like you.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Charlotte, you would be pleasantly surprised to find that many teachers are like me. If only we were left to just teach and nurture students rather than having legislators who have never set foot in the classroom dictating what they think education should be. Only the bad ones [teachers] make the news, but there are a barrage of caring people who teach. We are sure not in it for the money. LOL Oh yeah, we aren't in it for summers off either. Most of us are working on researching and preparing for classes and/or taking our own workshops or classes. This is on our own time without pay, too. I can't imagine doing anything else.

Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago

Yes, it is the teachers like you that have made an impact on my life - unfortunately where I come from, it's not always easy to be a teacher, and many aren't like you and your colleagues. When a teacher is like you, the students will immediately notice and respond too... and will remember you for a lifetime!

manthy profile image

manthy 5 years ago from Alabama,USA

Wow 20 yrs is a long time. Kudos to you for your service to us.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, Manthy! It has really been an honor for me 99% of the time. There are "those days," but then I think of how the good/wonderful/funny days outweigh the few bad days. Even when I get a class who tests me, I come in hard and lighten up as I go. It is a learning process for all of us. :-) Thanks for dropping by! :-)

kheyward profile image

kheyward 5 years ago

I admire anyone who has a passion for teaching our kids these days. I know it can be a hared profession especially given the lack of respect mnay children give teachers. Hats off to you and all teachers out there.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, Kheyward! I love teaching. Kid are a joy, but you do have to be prepared to deal with those kids who try to be difficult. I have edited the part two segment of this hub, so it does not appear yet. I have had good luck with these techniques at school and at home - lol. ;-) Thanks for dropping by!!

Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Sholland FYI,

I was a quiet and good boy when I was a kid. But, teaching today for me is out of the question. You teachers go through so much that I wonder if you have to deal with ulcers and psychosomatic effects. This was very informative and I admire your work. Twenty years is a lifetime sentecne in other 'areas' of life. Hope you had a nice New Year and Thanks for being an excellent woman.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, Lord de Cross! Nah, no ulcers from the kids for me. They are great once they understand the lines that can't be crossed. I appreciate your kind words. I bet you were a great student! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Thanks for dropping by and reading!

mpoche4 profile image

mpoche4 4 years ago from Baton Rouge, LA

I am going to forward this on to my teacher friends! great hub!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, MPoche! I appreciate you sharing it. I hope you saw part 2. :-)

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Both of my daughters are teachers. One teaches kindergarten and the other teaches PreK. I hear their stories of Kids Gone Wild! I'm going to share this hub with them for some lessons from a seasoned pro. Thank you for sharing these great tips:)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks for sharing it, Linda! Wow, I admire your daughters teaching the little ones. I did 8 weeks of student teaching in 1st grade. I WAS EXHAUSTED every night!! I have great respect for elementary teachers because I could not do their job. :-)

jenntyl99 profile image

jenntyl99 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

I think you give some practical information and agree with alot of what you say. However, working in an urban school (that is the worst in the state, literally) the hall and office strategies do not work (mainly because there is no follow through on the other end). Students have learned that there are inconsistencies in our school and they take advantage of that. It would almost appear as if they were the ones running the school. That being said, it is up to the individual teacher to establish a routine and protocol for those students that exhibit behavior problems. As a special educator, I believe (like you stated) that establishing a tone on the first day is the most important thing you must do. I always establish my routines and then give the students some ability to help make the rules and consequences for when they are broken. Giving them ownership in their classroom will only help encourage them to hold others accountable when they act out. It is simply amazing to see who the leaders in the class become (sometimes they are some of the worst students).

In addition, establishing a rapport with your students is very important. When they get to know you and you get to know them it is much easier to establish a learning environment. It is realistic to assume that this will depend on the classroom and the makeup of children in it, but as teachers we must be adaptable.

I have learned over my 12 years of teaching in non traditional environments (alternative schools, juvenile placements, aka jails, and failing schools) that teaching is a constant process whereby we are also learning new ways to reach those we teach.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Jenn, thanks for sharing your story. Your situation sounds like a challenge. I hope you write about it to help others become aware. My girlfriend taught in an inner-city school. She said she got into trouble by the administration for trying to break up a fight. Then the next day the parents showed up and they, with the kids, fought. The administration disappeared. I wish I had an answer for that type of classroom, but I don't. Again, thanks for sharing, and I do encourage you to write about your experiences. You are absolutely right, we constantly need to learn new ways to teach. Each year brings something new.

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

Excellent piece of advise here, susan. My kid is already in awe of going back to school 'cause of the teacher. He is not worried of academics but the

they sure play a pivotal role in our kid's live. voted up as interesting and useful. Wish I could fwd this hub to his

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Well now that explains why I spent so much time in the hall and hardly any at all in the prinicpals office! Except 4th hour - I didn't get a study hall - they made me work in the prinicpals office:) LOL I got suspended too because I was taking the hall pass from the office and going around getting all my friends out of class by telling the teacher "the principal would like to see "so and so"..." hahaha Back in those days - they didn't even have a good intercom system. I made it work for me!

You have the ideas of a teacher I would have LOVED! I was a pretty good student too - I was just real routy! lol Bet you can hardly believe that!

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Susan.....20 years of teaching......that's remarkable in itself.....but then to see that you have such composure and sensible strategy for dealing with disruptive darlings....I bow to you!

Don't know what grade/year you teach, but from the bit I see and hear just being at the school from time to time for my grandchildren.... I have no problem, hereby, dubbing you "Saint Susan."

Have a wonderful school year. I'm sure your students totally love you! UP++

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Hi Ruchira! I hope your son has a great school year. Teachers can be pivotal in the lives of our kids.

Thanks so much for dropping by and voting! (If you want to print this off and put it in your son's folder to take to school for his teacher, that would be all right. LOL)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Hmmm... Kelly, you hardly spent time in the principal's office, but you worked in the principal's office during your study hall? What a classic move on your school's part. LOL They had their eye on you. They loved you because you were so creative and funny and ornery, but they knew you were walkin' on the edge. LOL How do I know this? Because you just told my story!! LOL

When I started teaching in the school district I grew up in, I went around and apologized to each teacher. Students believe teachers hate them or dislike them, usually because of their [student's] behavior. I found my teachers loved me, but I didn't know that. I was damned funny in school. LOL They loved my personality and spirit, and they looked out for me in ways I didn't know. I get it now that I am on the teaching side. It's about saving kids, not punishing them. :-)

Thanks for dropping by! :-)

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks, Paula! I teach high school, and I truly love it. Keeps me on my toes. :-)

Thanks for dropping by and the votes!

Former Whitireia Student 2 years ago

True story from Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua, New Zealand:

Jack Harris, a.k.a. Mr. Loudmouth, would sit in class, playing with his computer (video games, irrelevant web-surfing, etc) and YELLING at the top of his lungs at his buddy who sat next to him. He could go for two solid hours without stopping. Day after day after day, for two long semesters.

The content wasn't merely irrelevant. Mr. Loudmouth was trying to get in to Whitireia's paramedic programme. So one day, he YELLED that, a personal benefit of working in health care would include, and I quote, "You get to see naked chicks".

One time, I calmly asked him to tone down his incessant YELLING. After about ten seconds of calm, he was back to YELLING. I calmly asked him again to tone it down. Another ten seconds of calm, and then the YELLING resumed. So, I stopped doing the worksheet that we had been given, gathered up my stuff, and moved as far from him as possible, while remaining in the room. After about a minute, he noticed, and directed his YELLING at me, across the classroom, past several other students, asking if I thought there was too much NOISE in the classroom. He thought it was cute.

The demoralised, burned-out Whitireia staff did nothing about this idiot. They didn't have the authority to tell the little scumbag to leave the room. When I complained to one of the teachers, her excuse was that Mr. Loudmouth had a learning disability. And she said that I needed to learn to tolerate it, because, and I quote, "This is how people act in professional workplaces".

Near the end of the year, Whitireia hired a new teacher who was a hardened veteran of many years of high school. She was stunned. She eventually flipped out, and would scream at the entire classroom full of paying adult students. In her last class of the year, she repeatedly went over to Mr. Loudmouth to lean down and scream at him, desperately trying get him to shut up.

And the outcome of all this?

Whitireia then accepted Mr. Loudmouth in to their paramedic programme.

Whitireia managers Beth Derby, Mary Manderson, and Leanne Pool told me that I was a bad student and a bad person for daring to form any kind of negative opinion of their institution, including their lack of intake standards and lack of discipline.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 2 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Oh my gosh! Did he have Tourette Syndrome? I have had students with Tourettes, and students have been understanding. I speak softly to Tourettes students, and it seems to calm them. Tourettes students are usually highly intelligent; they just have no control.

You sound like a wonderful student! I would have moved you the first time you voiced a concern.

Now, if the guy was a trouble maker, I would have used the strategies above. The veteran teacher should not have yelled at the student. Handling it calmly would have helped the teacher and the student. Doesn't sound like there was much support for the teacher or the student in your school. I hate that for you.

Thanks for sharing your story.

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

On the spot advice for teachers. I can tell you are an old pro. I hope you have more administrative support than I ever had. Votes up!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

As a retired teacher I enjoyed this article immensely. I had to chuckle a few times. Number 1 - having a sense of humor is the most important. I have turned around a bad situation with that many times. And Number 3 is most important - I give the "evil eye" and they settle down immediately. I literally practiced that one in front of the mirror during student teaching. A great set of coping strategies from a veteran teacher. Great hub!

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 2 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Hi Rebecca! Our administration is very supportive. On that rare occasion, a parent with a kid who should be in trouble at home, too, will step in and tie administrations hands. That is very rare, though. Thanks for the votes!! :-)

Suzette, congratulations on retirement!! I am glad you enjoyed the hub and related to it. :-)

Thank you both for dropping by!! :-)

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I found these tips exceptional. A teacher must face these issues early in the year to effectively manage the entire school year.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 2 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Hi Teaches! It is so difficult to start out being so rule oriented, but it has to be done. My least favorite days of a school year are the first two days. Those are the day I have to go over the rules and be stern about them. After those two days, though, it is so much easier. :-)

Thanks so much for dropping by! :-)

Relationshipc profile image

Relationshipc 2 years ago from Alberta, Canada

That's why all the teaches knew me by name immediately!

I definitely have a lot of respect for teachers. I couldn't do it. Remembering myself as a student, I can see how useful your tips would be for controlling the class and your sanity.

I still respect the teachers who treated me with respect, took control of their classroom, and never lost their temper in front of us.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 2 years ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Hi Relationshipc! I still remember being the student and the class clown. On the whole, most students understand what has to take place in the classroom to learn. It is up to the teacher to make it a comfortable, learning atmosphere without out taking the fun out of learning.

I love teaching and having fun with the students. Once they figure out there is not much they can do to make me "dislike" them, they stop pushing the line. It is an adventure every day, and I love it.

I am glad you had teachers who showed you respect. That is a life skill we should all practice. :-)

Thanks so much for dropping by!

letstalkabouteduc profile image

letstalkabouteduc 10 months ago from Bend, OR

I so admire teachers these days. It seems like a tough time to be in the profession with high stakes testing, Common Core, and disrespectful students. When I volunteer in my 7th grader's class, the cell phones alone are enough to make me crazy. I want to take them all and throw them out the window (the phones, not the kids). I just think to myself: God bless these teachers who enjoy working with middle schoolers! Great hub.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 9 months ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Thanks so much, letstalkabouteduc! Sometimes it is so challenging, but the rewards outweigh the challenges in education. I do long for the days when "passing a note" was the worst thing I had to deal with! HA! Sound like a dinosaur... guess I am. Being patient is a must in teaching. The kids are great, but teachers do have to gauge what they say or do more than they used to, which includes how a kid will take a joke or a hug... We are now advised not to hug students, but when one is hurting a hug is so tempting. Cell phones are everywhere, and students take pictures and videos and record when teachers have no idea. Technology is great in some ways, but it can be scary, too. Thanks so much for volunteering! We do not have many volunteers at the high school level.

Thanks for dropping by!! :-)

Zoe 7 months ago

Unfortunately, that doesn't help in my case.

First of all,in my school teachers are not allowed to send kids out of classroom during the lesson. I mean it-it is really prohibited.

Secondly,not a single kid has ever been sent to the headmaster-he does not get involved into it,does not want it and is not going to.

Secondly, the administrators,even if they know about the disruptive class, are not eager or not able to do anything about it.

Also, kids still don't give s damn about another teacher/admin sitting in class.

Also, neither do kids' parents.

sholland10 profile image

sholland10 6 months ago from Southwest Missouri Author

Zoe, I am sorry to hear you do not have the support you need to create a good classroom atmosphere. I feel very fortunate to have administrators who support me.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article