How To Recover From A No Good, Unruly, Disorderly Teaching Day

How To Recover From A Bad Teaching DaySo things went south toward the end of the day.

Your students were antsy and talkative. There were disruptions. The noise level got out of hand.

Perhaps you got behind and let things go a bit. You raised your voice a few times.

Whatever the case, it wasn’t a good day.

Now you’re wrung out and exhausted and wondering how to get the train back on the track.

The good news is that as long as it was a minor setback, and not a total loss of control, it isn’t difficult to do.

It isn’t difficult to tighten things up, grease down the rails, and start anew.

A few simple steps first thing in the morning is all it takes.

Here’s how:

1. Begin outside your door.

If you don’t already meet your students outside your classroom door, it’s good practice to do so. This step alone will put them in a more focused, more productive frame of mind before entering.

When recovering from a bad day, lining up outside will also send the message that the expectation bar has been picked up off the floor and placed back on the top rung where it belongs.

2. Preview the day.

Rehashing yesterday’s woes is counterproductive. It merely drags the bad energy with you into the morning. Instead, focus on the future by previewing the cool or interesting or exciting things you have planned for them.

Give them a compelling reason to want to listen, learn, and follow rules. Reignite their love for school first, and you’ll have all the leverage you need to secure a great day.

3. Restate the rules.

While maintaining the same upbeat approach, quickly restate your classroom rules. “As an important member of this classroom you have a responsibility to listen and follow directions, raise your hand before speaking . . .”

Remember, your classroom management plan is designed to protect their right to learn and enjoy school. It preserves an environment of kindness and respect. It’s a good thing! And it must be communicated as such.

4. Review the first routine.

Just before waving your students into the classroom, review the initial morning routine. You don’t have to model it as you did the first week of school, but you do need to touch on every key expectation from start to finish.

As you’re speaking, visualize yourself as a student completing each step along the way until you’re seated, quiet, and looking at the teacher. In this way, your students will picture themselves doing it right along with you.

5. Watch like a hawk.

The first routine of the day is critical in restoring your classroom to its well-behaved state. A smooth and efficient performance will put to rest any concerns from the day before.

Therefore, you mustn’t busy yourself with paperwork, interacting with individual students, or mentally rehearsing your opening lesson. Put all of your focus into watching your class carry out the routine.

6. Repeat if necessary.

If the opening routine is anything less than a 10 out of 10, there is no reason to sigh or complain or let it affect you emotionally in any way. Just smile and send them right back outside to do it again.

How they feel about it isn’t your concern. You’re holding them to a standard required for a peaceful, happy, and successful classroom, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.

Hope Is Not A Strategy

The biggest mistake teachers make after a bad day is to turn grim and standoffish, to use a show of disappointment and the threat of turning ‘mean’ as a hedge against a repeat performance.

And although this may help tamp down excitability and misbehavior in the immediate term, it does nothing to correct the problem. It does nothing to ensure that it won’t happen again.

Furthermore, such power plays damage rapport, sap motivation, and cause students to care a lot less about being in your classroom.

The steps above, however, address the cause of the problems from the day before.

They refresh and restore your classroom back to well-being. They remind you of the utter importance of being consistent, of doing exactly what you say you will.

They also give you a chance to clear the boards and start anew, to turn the setback into a positive rather than a negative, and to know the train is back on the track and running on all cylinders.

Instead of just hoping it is.

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14 Responses to How To Recover From A No Good, Unruly, Disorderly Teaching Day

  1. John March 14, 2015 at 9:53 am #


  2. Sam March 15, 2015 at 8:12 am #

    Can you please clarify when do you give strikes and when do you make them repeat it (like going out of class and coming in again)?

    • Michael Linsin March 15, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      Hi Sam,

      You send them out to repeat after they sit down and give you their attention.


  3. Robin Silva March 15, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    Wow, it’s almost like you were in my classroom on Friday. It wasn’t a total disaster but I had some unforeseen occurrences such as, a new student, parents who wanted a doctor evaluation form fill out on the spot, and some students from another class sent to my room to finish work. However, my students have an expectation of how things work on Friday afternoons, and part of that process is that I check their work before they can make choices on their next activity. This obviously put me into a position of needing to do too many things at one time. I will take your advise and get things back on track tomorrow but I also see that I need to establish some alternate practices when something unexpected occurs. Thank you again for the valuable tools to recover!

    • Michael Linsin March 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

      You’re welcome, Robin!


  4. Teresa March 15, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    How do you feel about the Montessori curriculum? Do you agree with that style or way of teaching?

    • Michael Linsin March 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      Hi Teresa,

      I don’t know it well enough to offer a fair opinion.


  5. Julie March 18, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

    Thank you for this post! Your website has helped me a lot with my challenging group of second graders. They, unfortunately, are ‘that group’ of students. You know the one where the previous year teacher retires (and literally had a stroke during the school day) or applies for a different position. They shake an established and successful teacher (like myself) to the core and make me question everything I know about classroom management. I greet my students at the door (offer a handshake, high five or a hug), have a specific note written to the on the board with an example of the work they are to do (it’s always the same type of work). They know the routine, but there are at least 10 out of 27 that just don’t follow it. They come in and start causing problems with each other. Many of them are very immature and constantly involved in each others business. I honestly can’t keep my eye off of them for a second (and even with my eye on them they still pull it. I go over our daily agenda to preview the day. They can ask questions to clarify what we are doing that day. But, it’s still the first 15 minutes when the students are coming in and getting to work that are tough. I agree, that it can set the tone for the day and it drives me crazy that I have to start my day like that. I like things calm and the kiddos on task.
    My questions to you are 1. What do you do with the kiddos who still don’t follow the routine? I hate to have the whole class practice over again because there are those students who want to get their assignments done. I will have those students who are not on task practice again. 2. What about students who just don’t care? I know that I can’t make a student do anything, but how do I get them to care/do their morning work? I’ve tried an assortment of the typical things, but it doesn’t seem to work with some of those hard to reach kids. I’ve read a lot of your articles and they have helped. Maybe today was just one of those days and tomorrow will be better, but I want a plan of action. Thank you for your time!

    • Michael Linsin March 18, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

      Hi Julie,

      I’ve written about these topics extensively (and the solutions to your questions are more involved than the time and space we have here), but if you’d like a more personalized approach, I recommend personal coaching.


  6. Alyssa Betz April 4, 2015 at 8:52 am #


    I really enjoyed reading this post. I have days where I plan exciting lessons that the students get really into and sometimes noise levels get a little out of control and students forget certain procedures. It is great to have steps that will help to bring them back to a procedure. I always greet my students at the door and I always focus on what we will be doing that day instead of the day prior. I used to think that restating all of the rules and outlining specific rules over and over towards the end of the school year would be just redundant and unnecessary but I am coming to realize that redundancy is a positive thing… a necessary thing!

    Thank your for your post!


    • Michael Linsin April 4, 2015 at 9:38 am #

      You’re welcome, Alyssa! I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  7. Cheryl April 9, 2015 at 12:45 am #

    Do you have any comments about working with student teachers? My student teacher and I have very different styles and I suspect that is causing some of the difficulties I’ve been experiencing in my classroom recently. She has begun soloing and the vibe in my room is almost unrecognizable from when she isn’t there. I’m the type who greets students at the door and asks about their soccer game. Her style is no-nonsense, lots of ringing bells, and punishments (she even makes me a bit uncomfortable).

    I’m really glad I stumbled onto your site…

    • Michael Linsin April 9, 2015 at 8:28 am #

      Hi Cheryl,

      It’s something I’ll keep in mind for a future article. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m glad you found us. 🙂