When you are confronted with a difficult class—whether it’s a new class in the beginning of a school year, a class you’ve had for a while and lost control of, or one you see once a day in your learning area—the best thing you can do is slow things down to a glacial pace.
A lot of teachers have the opposite reaction to disrespectful and unruly learners. They get stressed and emotional, and they speed things up. They talk louder, get frustrated, demand, yell, and show their anger.
When you head down a negative road like this, the only way you can gain control of your class is through intimidation; being mean enough and threatening enough to cause learners to shrink and surrender control back to you. If you choose this course, however, every day will be a battle.
The moment you’re confronted with an out-of-control class, what works best is to slow everything way down. Follow the guidelines below, and you’ll gain control and respect from any classroom.
- Start from the beginning. As soon as you see your learners, first thing in the morning or when they arrive at your door, stop them and don’t let them proceed any farther until they’re quiet and attentive. If it takes 10 minutes, so be it.
- Move deliberately. Slowing down has a calming effect on learners. You will also discover that, surprisingly, both you and your learners will get more accomplished.
- Speak softly and slowly. Make your learners have to strain slightly in order to hear you. You can even tell them that you’re going to whisper your instructions to see how well they can listen. Decide that, no matter what, you will not talk over your learners or move on with instruction until they are quiet and attentive.
- Use short, direct sentences, and offer simple instructions that incrementally get learners to do what you want. (“Place your maths book in the top corner of your desk and stand up.”) Increase complexity gradually.
- Pause often and a bit longer than feels comfortable. This technique has an almost supernatural way of drawing attention to you and what you have to say.
At any point during the day, if your learners aren’t giving you exactly what you want, stop them immediately. Don’t transition to a new activity until every learner understands your instructions. Give them the signal to begin only after a long pause.
Take your time, but never be boring. You can still be happy and enthusiastic in front of your learners while at the same time taking things slowly.
Relax and enjoy your day. If it feels stressful, then you’re doing it wrong. Classroom management doesn’t have to be difficult to be effective. Moreover, your peaceful mood has a profound effect on students.
Once your learners are calm and you have established yourself as the leader of the classroom, teach your classroom management plan over again, as if it’s the first day of school.
It’s important to point out that these strategies are just a starting point, a way to get your class under control. You can increase the speed and complexity of your instruction as your learners become more attentive and more responsive to you, but being slow is always a good idea.
Now it’s your turn. How do you get to control any classroom? Let us know in the comments below.