3 Hidden Signs You’ve Lost Control Of Your Class

3 Hidden Signs You've Lost Control Of Your ClassMost teachers who have lost control of their class aren’t even aware of it.

After all, it’s not as if their students are throwing spit wads at each other.

They’re not out of their seats during lessons.

They’re not yelling and cursing and running up and down the aisles.

But just because your students aren’t exhibiting extreme misbehavior doesn’t mean your class is under control.

In fact, in a great many classrooms the students are no better off than if they really were bouncing off the walls.

Hours of instructional time is still being wasted. Motivation is still low. Learning is still suffering.

What follows are three signs you’ve indeed lost control of your class—even if it doesn’t feel like it.

1. Talking over students.

This is one of the most common traits of struggling teachers. They teach, and go on teaching, even while their students are chatting and whispering and staring into space.

It’s not that the teacher is unaware of it. It’s just that their attempts to change it have failed. They’ve learned that if they want to get through their lessons, they have to accept it. They have to ignore it out of self-preservation.

They don’t want to fall behind or draw attention to their struggles, so they continue in the same vein day after day. They continue to teach to a distracted, disrespectful, and inattentive audience.

2. Needy students.

They crowd in. They pull on the teacher’s hem. They tattle and complain. They whine and implore. They share that Emily just called them a name, their sandwich got smashed in their backpack, and they have a microscopic scrape on their finger.

And they keep coming, virtually all day long. Struggling teachers tend to chalk up such behavior to the population they work with—regardless where they teach. They assume that their students seek attention because they can’t get it elsewhere.

They think, and often say out loud, that they have a needy class, that it’s something they have no control over. But it isn’t true. The hard truth is that they have poor classroom management.

3. Students unable to get along.

Occasional friendship drama is normal. But when disrespect is a daily occurrence, when students go out of their way to show their frustration and dislike, then it’s a reflection of the learning environment.

Struggling teachers often attempt to handle the problem through a strategy of avoidance. In other words, they try to keep certain students separated. They tell them that they can’t work with, be around, or even stand next to each other.

Jackson can’t be by Carlos. Rose can’t work with Olivia. It’s a strategy teachers use when they don’t know another way. But separating students does nothing to improve their behavior.

It does, however, damage their social confidence and send the message that they’re incapable of working with or becoming friends with those who are different than themselves.

Note: For more on this topic, see chapter 11 of Dream Class.

The Inescapable Truth

There is a vast swath of teachers who have cobbled together just enough survival techniques to keep a lid on their classroom.

Many even believe that under the circumstances they’re doing a fine job.

But the truth is, they’re drowning.

Although they may have extensive training in curriculum and instructional methods, they can’t manage their classroom well enough to take advantage of it. (This is one of education’s dirty little secrets and thorniest problems.)

Exceptional teachers, on the other hand, know where their bread is buttered.

They know that managing their classroom comes first and foremost. They know that their success, as well as that of their students, flows from this single source.

Recognizing its critical importance is the first step for any teacher desiring more than just getting by, more than accepting indifference and disrespect as part of the job.

The good news is that it isn’t difficult. Armed with a few foundational principles and a quiver of strategies, anyone can make drastic improvement in their ability to manage their classroom.

Anyone can go from hanging on by their fingertips to grasping the brass ring of peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Anyone can go from just surviving . . .

To thriving.

PS – If you’re a principal who would like to improve recess behavior, click here.

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9 Responses to 3 Hidden Signs You’ve Lost Control Of Your Class

  1. Arabella May 10, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    I get the needy students all the time, and particularly in the class i have the most trouble with. Specifically, it always seems like they are injuring themselves! On Friday, i had one who hit his leg on a choir riser and was walking all dramatically with a limp, another who came up asking for a bandaid for a hangnail (i told her she was fine and she stood at my desk telling me how bad it hurts…i have had to give this girl a bandaid almost every time i have her class, when’s always got a cut or something) and then the same girl told me she hit her head on the projector and had to go to the nurse. I had I’ve girl come up to me another day with a scrape that was obviously several days old, asking for a bandaid. I told her that since she’s not bleeding, she didn’t need one. This is a third grader, not a kinder. She stomped her foot and told me that it hurts and she needs a bandaid. I’m just confused about how they’re always so “injured” when they get to my class.

    I am well aware that I have lost any amount of control over this class, and I’m making my way through the website and your orange book trying to fix it, but what do you do with these students who will not even take “I’m out of bandaids” for an answer? It’s a huge distraction when i have to stop what I’m doing (especially with this class) and get a bandaid or fill out a nurse note.

    • Michael Linsin May 11, 2015 at 6:17 am #

      Hi Arabella,

      The answer is to improve your classroom management as detailed in the orange book. This alone will make your students drastically more independent. There are some other things you can do, but I’ll cover them in future articles.


  2. Katie May 10, 2015 at 11:07 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for this article, it’s helped me to realize that I need to step up my management. I’m a first year teacher and I teacher Year 5 in Australia. I find that the students in my class are often unmotivated and require prompting to start tasks.

    I can get them in and settled in the morning session and that usually flows fairly well. My trouble comes in after lunch break. Our school has playtime for the first half of break and then eating time.

    I have tried lining them all up outside and only letting the students who respond to my instructions go in. I have tried raising my voice and quieting them down. I have tried rewarding students for doing the right thing, but it is seeming to have minimal impact.

    Any ideas on how I can get the kids to calm down after the craziness of lunchtime?

    Thanks! – Katie

    • Michael Linsin May 11, 2015 at 6:21 am #

      Hi Katie,

      You practice what you want and expect in the form of a routine, and then you hold them to it. For more on this topic, please look through the Procedures & Routines category of the archive.


  3. MC January 17, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    This article definitely applies to me (new teacher), and it took me some time to pinpoint my mistakes…Now I am midway through the school year and going to reteach my students a new, clearer classroom management plan-and going to enforce it (as well as send it home to parents). I am nervous because so much time has already passed but I have nothing to lose. Your articles have helped reshape my outlook, thank you. I will let you know how it goes.

    • Michael Linsin January 17, 2016 at 7:46 pm #

      You’re welcome, MC! I’m glad you found the article helpful.


  4. EA April 17, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    Hi Michael, I have been following your excellent articles for the last two years, since I began my teaching career. The advice is practical and applicable immediately. I have some confusion about this article. I do not understand how students with needy behaviors (getting hurt, needing band aids, tattling) is a sign of poor classroom management and lack of control of my classroom. Please explain further. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin April 18, 2016 at 6:56 am #

      Hi EA,

      I’ll be sure and cover this topic in greater detail in a future article. In the meantime, I’ve written about tattling in Dream Class as well as on here on the blog. The search function is the easiest way to find articles.