So this other day I was chatting with a fellow colleague of mine during lunch time while were doing our duty roster. I noticed one of the learners approaching fast to talk to Mr Muzila. So instead of waiting for us to end our conversation, the learner entered our personal space and asked a question. I was taken back by such behaviour. Even worse my colleague got angry with the learner and maybe even got a little embarrassed.
But here’s the thing.
If your learners feel comfortable enough to interrupt you while you are having an adult conversation, then chances are you are being interrupted in your classroom as well. Maybe your learners leave their seats and approach you without permission. Maybe they call out in class without raising their hand. Maybe your lessons are too long and boring.
Whatever the situation, interruptions are both a cause and a symptom of classroom management and learning suffers a lot because of it. Some teachers may tell you that interruptions and other similar disrespectful behaviours are inherited from home and there’s nothing they can do about it.
That is simply not true
You can definitely do something about it, and while you’re at it increase the learning in your classroom.
Here’s how you can do this:
- Be specific of what interrupting really is
This may sound strange but it’s important to explain clearly to your learners what interrupting is, because believe it or not, more than a few of them don’t know. Give examples using the specific interrupting behaviours you’re seeing in your classroom.
- Explain why it’s wrong to interrupt someone
Simply and directly explain why it’s wrong to interrupt, why it’s disruptive to learning, and why it isn’t allowed in your classroom. Knowing the why of your expectations will always result in better understanding from learners
- Role-play interrupting behaviours.
Sit in a learner’s chair and play the part of an interrupting learner. Choose a learner volunteer to play you teaching a lesson. Run through a few scenarios, showing the ridiculousness of interrupting, calling out, and approaching the teacher without permission.
Note: If your learners are laughing, then you know you’re doing it right.
- Model what to do instead.
Now show your learners the required alternatives to interrupting. Show them the ease of raising one’s hand, the politeness of waiting patiently for you, and how much more peaceful and conducive to learning it is without interruptions.
- Reward those who do it right.
No, you’re not going to give out prizes to learners who don’t interrupt. What you will do, however, is respond quickly to those who raise their hand and wait to be called on.
Note: This sends a clear message to learners that raising your hand and waiting patiently is the fastest way to get noticed.
- Don’t respond to those who interrupt.
If a learner interrupts, calls out, or stands in front of you repeating your name, don’t respond. Because for every time you do you create a flood of more of the same behaviours.
- Enforce a consequence.
Instead of responding to interruptions, or even reminding learners to raise their hand, look them in the eye and say, “You have a warning” or whatever consequence your classroom management plan calls for.
It’s unfair for learners to interrupt you
A lot of teachers encourage such disrespectful and disruptive behaviour by answering and responding to interruptions, which is the same as giving your stamp of approval. This leaves the quiet, the shy and the polite learners on the side-lines while opening a can of worms to everyone else.
Sometimes you’ll hear some teachers say, “My learners are so needy. They just crave my attention.”
No, they don’t.
What they crave and what they need is a way to ask a question or voice a concern without having to fight, scratch, or compete with their classmates.
So give them that way. Follow the tips above and give all your learners equal access to you, and in addition, equal access to their education.
Now it’s your turn. How do you handle interrupting learners in your class? Let me know in the comments below.