Whether you’re an experienced teacher or just starting out, losing control of your classroom can be very frustrating. It’s not always your fault and can happen for a number of reasons: the class is distracted from a peculiar noise, not paying attention because they’re anticipating recess, or just simply has a lack of interest in the material being taught.
Whatever the case may be, it’s tempting to just throw your hands up in defeat. But by regaining control of your classroom, you are exercising your role as an authority figure and setting an example that errant behavior is not tolerated in your classroom. Don’t wait until your students are hanging from the rafters. Use the following classroom management strategies to regain control right now.
Use an Attention Signal
Here’s a time-honored classroom management idea. Refocus students by having an attention signal that alerts them that it’s time to concentrate on the task at hand. Whether it’s a bell, call and response signal, or hand gesture, make sure that your students know that when they see or hear it, it’s time to refocus.
Rearrange the Seating Chart
Social dynamics play a huge part in students’ behavior. Pay attention to where disruptive and talkative students sit and separate them. You will find that as soon as you rearrange the classroom seating chart, the situation will most often be neutralized.
Share Your Frustration
Consider sharing your feelings with your students. Say, “All of these distractions are making it extremely hard for me to teach and for you to learn.” Sometimes just being honest with students and telling them how you feel can help rectify the situation.
Sit Back and Observe for a Moment
Often, we believe that allowing students to act disruptively or talk amongst themselves shows our weakness, but this isn’t the case. In fact, try sitting back for a minute and observe the students. It also helps to mentally ask a few questions in the process:
- Why is the situation is occurring?
- Are the students not interested in the lesson?
- Is the lesson too long?
- What is distracting the students?
In those few minutes you may find the answer that will transform chaos into clarity, both in your classroom and your own psyche.
Make sure that you address every problem with a direct response. The more consistent you are with your expectations and consequences, the quicker you will be able to regain control of your classroom. Do not let anything get by you until you are absolutely sure that your class is under control.
Children are smart and can take advantage of the situation if they sense you’re losing control—just ask rookie or substitute teachers. Because your confidence (or lack thereof) transcends to your students, it’s important to bolster that skill as much as possible. If you’re looking for a good place to start, build your confidence by practicing with your friends or family. Role play different scenarios that can occur in the classroom, and practice how you would respond to them. In no time, you’ll act instinctively the next time disruptive behavior occurs.
Rein in the Over Talkers
Every classroom has that one student who thinks they have the answer to everything. If you see that student start to monopolize a classroom discussion, acknowledge their viewpoint and move on. If you don’t rein these students in, there’s a chance that you can lose control of your classroom. Politely thank them for their response and either move along with the lesson or give them the opportunity to further discuss the topic at another time.
Lead by Example
Let’s face it — children are always watching every move we make. If you want to regain control of your classroom, then it starts with you remaining calm and displaying the behavior you expect from your students. Do you text in class? Interrupt students when they are talking? Get up while students are asking you a question? Eat in the classroom? If you said yes to any of these questions, then how do you expect your students to listen to you when you’re doing exactly what you’re asking them not to do? Simply put, lead by example. By doing so, establishing or regaining control of the learning space will be much easier.
An effective classroom management plan is a full-time commitment. As soon as you think you can relax and let your guard down, something happens. Be confident in your ability to regain your students’ attention and focus. Instead of coming home feeling defeated, try to experiment with a few of these techniques, and I’m sure you will find that losing control of your classroom will happen less frequently.