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Tips on how to deal with students misbehaving in the classroom

If you're a teacher at any level, you know that there are some students who cause more headaches than others. And while some teachers may be tempted to ignore the problem, most probably have had to deal with disruptive students.

Whether it's misbehaving, being late for class, or disrupting others' ability to learn, dealing with inappropriate behavior is an inevitable part of teaching.

How to deal with a misbehaving student

Every teacher has to deal with unruly students, eventually. This article will talk about how to deal with those situations.

Some of you may think that those kinds of situations should not happen in a classroom because if a student behaves badly and disrupts the class, you should just send him out and give him a zero for his behavior.

But here is the thing: sometimes it is not as easy as it seems, and the student could actually have a valid reason for his behavior. You can't always know what is going on in a person's life.

What you should not do is confront a disruptive student head on, which will only cause the student to feel attacked and defensive. Here are three suggestions for how to deal with a misbehaving student:

1. Rather than confronting the student directly, focus on the behavior. If the student is being loud or disruptive, calmly say, "Please stop talking. I can't hear what Jane is saying." Or, if the student's behavior is more serious (e.g., physical aggression), send a note to the parents and respectfully request an appointment to discuss it. Also, if possible, ask another teacher whose class the student isn't in to observe the behavior and provide feedback.

2. Involve your administrator and other faculty members as soon as possible. Include them in your plans for corrective action. They may offer suggestions that would work better than ones you come up with yourself (e.g., "I've tried everything; I'm at my wit's end; please help me").

3. Communicate with parents as early as possible about your concerns and what steps you have taken so far to resolve them (e.g., "I have spoken to Billy and discussed this problem with him and his mother several times now").

Dealing with a student who is late for class

Many schools have procedures in place for tardy students, but teachers also need to know how to handle the situation.

Setting up an effective classroom management system takes some time, but it is worth it. When students are allowed to come and go as they please, teachers are placed in an impossible position.

If you yell at students all day long to get them back into their seats, you'll quickly become exhausted and ineffective. If you let students do whatever they want, you'll never feel like you have control over your class.

The key to classroom management is consistency. This means that your rules need to be clear and reasonable, and that you consistently apply consequences when students break those rules. And if your school already has a system for tardiness, be sure to use it.

If you are kind, you may feel tempted to let the tardy student slide. But remember that there is a reason for your class rules — they help students learn. If you allow even one student to break the rules, others will feel they can do the same thing.

If you are not consistent, instead of feeling that the class is orderly and fair, students will feel that it is arbitrary and unfair. And if you are easy on one tardy student, they will all be lined up outside your door at the start of class.

Being late, at times, is unavoidable. But most late students have plenty of time to get ready but choose to waste it.

How to handle students who disrupt the classroom environment

Disruptive students in the classroom can make the learning environment a very unpleasant one for both teachers and other students in the classroom.

Having students in your class who are disruptive or disrespectful can be frustrating, especially when it is hard to tell whether the problem is caused by the student's disrespect for you or their lack of respect for discipline.

Students come to your class with different backgrounds and different expectations. Some students will behave disrespectfully toward you because they believe disrespecting you will help them achieve their goals.

Other students might become distracted or disruptive because they are having trouble with the course material or issues outside of class warranting their attention.

The following tips will help you deal with students who disrupt the learning environment:

Start with yourself — when you are feeling angry, upset, or frustrated, step away from the situation. It is important to think clearly when dealing with a disruptive student. You need to focus fully on what is going on.

How you approach a disruptive student can have a big impact on how things turn out -- use a calm and measured tone of voice, and try not to raise your voice. This will show that you are confident in your position and that you feel that the behavior is wrong.

For example, if a student asks you a question, respond by asking him/her to repeat it so that everyone else can hear his/her question. Use "I" statements when responding.

For example, instead of saying "You were out of order," say "I felt uncomfortable when I heard your comment." This will allow the student to reflect upon his/her actions without making threats or accusations.

A big part of managing your classroom effectively is understanding that students are not typically bad people. Mostly, when there are problems with classroom management, it is because there are problems with your classroom management.

Dealing with a student who doesn't want to do their work

You've probably experienced this: you set expectations for a piece of work, and a student doesn't do it. When the student tells you why, he or she says something like: "I just don't feel like it."

Many teachers will respond to this by trying to inspire the student with a speech and/or by explaining how important this assignment is for the student's grade. If that doesn't work, then you might start giving consequences for not doing the work.

But there's another way to go about it: Have an honest conversation about what's going on.

It seems so obvious as to be hardly worth mentioning, but if students aren't doing the work, they aren't doing the work because they don't want to do the work. So instead of focusing on why they should do it, try asking them why they don't want to do it.

They might have an answer. Sometimes, though not always, it might be something simple—they haven't had enough time, they haven't been able to focus on it because of something else going on in their life right now…something simple that you can help them with.

Depending on the context, the student who doesn't want to do their work might be:

  • bored and frustrated (and you need to teach them how to take initiative and overcome their own boredom).

  • lazy and unmotivated (and you need to teach them to take responsibility for their own lives and work).

  • not capable of doing higher-level work (and you need to find a lower-level task they can accomplish).

  • confused or overwhelmed (in which case you might need to slow down the pace of the class, or give them more attention one on one).

  • [did I mention] bored and frustrated (in which case you might need to challenge them with a problem that is a bit above their level).

You have a lot of options. But first you should try asking yourself: Is this a problem with me or a problem with them?


How you deal with students who have disruptive behavior will have a direct impact on your other students and how well they learn. If you can come up with creative ways to make classroom management a breeze, it will help you save time and energy for the more fun parts of teaching.

Remember to always maintain your composure and authority if you want to minimize the damage a misbehaving student can do. Mischievous students will naturally target the teacher they think is the weakest, so it's essential that you do everything in your power to project confidence and competence throughout the duration of a class period.

There will be times when you have to deal with misbehaving students in your classroom, but if you follow these tips, you can minimize the damage they do and prevent them from ruining your class for everyone else.


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