How To Handle Six Disrespectful Students In One Class

Smart Classroom Management: How To Handle Six Disrespectful Students In One ClassA reader emailed SCM last week wondering how to handle six students who were wreaking havoc in his classroom.

Every day they were disruptive.

They were talkative and silly. They called out during lessons and made inappropriate comments.

They played off one another and held little regard for his expectations.

Most distressing, when he’d confront them or attempt to hold them accountable, they would become disrespectful.

They would argue and complain. They would lie and deny. They would talk back and then goof off when sent to time-out.

The teacher was at the end of his rope and desperate for answers.

One or two disrespectful students are hard enough. How do you handle a half dozen who are determined to make your life miserable?

Well, you don’t. At least, not directly.

You see, one of the most common mistakes teachers make is trying to handle difficult students as distinct entities, separate from the class as a whole.

Day after day, this teacher was pulling them aside for one-on-one talking-tos. He was lecturing them, counseling them, and giving them pep-talks.

He set up behavior contracts, offered rewards in exchange for good behavior, and had consequences designed just for them.

But these individualized methods only make matters worse—because they encourage misbehavior.

They cause resentment and antagonism. They wipe out intrinsic motivation and label students as “difficult,” which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The truth is, when you have several or more students who consistently disrupt learning and behave disrespectfully, it’s a sign you’ve lost control of your class—or never had it to begin with.

It’s a classroom management problem, not an individual student problem.

And the only way to fix it is to start over from the beginning.

It’s to establish sharply defined, non-negotiable boundaries of behavior for all students that are designed to protect your freedom to teach and your students’ freedom to learn.

Create a clear, no-nonsense classroom management plan that covers every possible misbehavior. Teach, model, and practice it so there are no misunderstandings or excuses not to follow it.

Then defend it to the hilt.

If you’re in the middle of the school year, it may take several days to see results.

You may even get considerable pushback, especially from the core of disrespectful students who have grown accustomed to having their way and dictating the environment of the class.

But if you fulfill your promise to protect the right of every student to learn and enjoy school, if you refrain from pulling students aside to scold, lecture, and bribe, and instead let your classroom management plan do your talking for you, then you’ll begin to reel them in.

Your most well-behaved students will respond first. You’ll notice them smiling more and making eye contact with you. They’ll be more openly friendly and appreciative. They’ll cheer you on from afar.

Then a few more students will join in support. One by one, you’ll begin picking them off and pulling them into your sphere of influence.

Before long, just one of your most difficult students will turn things around. They’ll abruptly start making the right choices.

They’ll become more respectful. They’ll grow calmer, happier, and more responsive to you and your expectations. They’ll like being part of the class.

Then another difficult student will come aboard. Then another.

You’ll now have more time and freedom to really enjoy your class and teach with greater passion. Your stress will fall away. You’ll smile and laugh more often and begin building real influence and rapport with your students.

You’ll have leverage.

Soon, the last few holdouts will take a look around and notice that no one is laughing at their jokes anymore. No one is amused by their antics.

They’ll realize that following rules and participating as a valued member of the class is a better option than creating their own brand of fun or behaving rebelliously. They’ll shrug their shoulders and join in too.

After all, you’ve made their choice an easy one.

You’ve made the gap between the experience of being part of the class, and the experience of being held accountable, so wide that no student can resist.

You’ve left the door to a safe, warm, and dry place wide open—where they’re welcomed and accepted and can leave their baggage behind.

Where they can be part of something special and bigger than themselves. Where their intrinsic motivational engines can finally begin to turn.

This is no pie-in-the-sky scenario.

It’s a transformation that is taking place in classrooms all over the world. Here at SCM, we receive hundreds of unsolicited email success stories every year.

Our approach to classroom management has been proven to turn around any group of students—no matter how disrespectful or ill-behaved.

If you’re new to our website or newsletter, I encourage you to visit our archive (along the sidebar), where you’ll find over 350 articles covering nearly every classroom management topic imaginable.

You may also want to pick up one of our books or sign up for personal coaching.

Finally, I have a new book coming out in May called The Happy Teacher Habits, which reveals 11 little-known secrets of the happiest, most effective teachers on Earth.

I hope you’ll check it out.

Thanks for reading!


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88 Responses to How To Handle Six Disrespectful Students In One Class

  1. TF Jenssen March 12, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    My problem is a class split roughly 50-50 between well behaved students, and troublesome, disrespectful ones. How do you * really* handle that? I feel it’s not fair for the good students having to remind them and going through the classroom rules when there are some students that no matter what, they’ll always be naughty and confrontational.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

      Hi TF,

      The article is a brief summary of our approach. I encourage you to check out our books or spend time in the archive. For specific, one-on-one help, please look into personal coaching.


      • Shari November 25, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

        Hi Michael,
        Your approaches do not seem to be aimed at an inclusive classroom. Am I correct?

      • Mel December 2, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

        I teach a self contained 12:1 class in middle school. There are 4 students who don’t trust adults. They come from very tough backgrounds where they were abused or neglected by a parent. They complete the class work but get into constant fights and at times just get up and walk out during class without permission. How do you deter students from losing their cool in school when they have so much going at home?

        • Michael Linsin December 3, 2016 at 8:34 am #

          Hi Mel,

          This is a big topic that I’ll put on the list of future articles.


    • Champa Lal Dhillan November 26, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

      I am only one teacher of middle school . How to manage my class please guide to me.

  2. Denise March 12, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    What happens with these students when the consequences don’t work:
    My consequences are
    -check and time out
    -check and note home
    -phone call home and may get referral out of classroom for injurious behavior or significantly disruptive behavior – referral to administration never results in phone call to parent or escalating consequences, just a talk

    Most students never get beyond check and time out but I have five students who reach check and note home or check and note and referral at least once per week. Parents are not interested in the notes or phone calls home – no consequences- they have the same problems at home and don’t know what to do – don’t want to hear it.
    These children do things like get out of seat and put hands around neck of another child, throw things across the room, sob and cry and climb under the desk because they don’t like the assignment ( art/music) etc. most of them have clear issues that are not being addressed. Parents won’t attend SST’s and won’t sign for IEP’s. Three of them are identified as gifted but have no self control or boundaries. Two recieve talk therapy from a therapist once per week.
    I have a warm relationship with all of them but their behaviors have stabilized at reaching at least two checks almost daily. It is so hard to teach like this.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

      Hi Denise,

      It’s a sign that there are problems elsewhere. Remember, a classroom management plan is important, but it’s a small part of effective classroom management. I would need to speak with you personally and know a lot more information to nail down what those problems are.


      • kieran corda November 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

        as a student i find that it is not always easy to do so, there’s still silent jokes and when class is not going on they will fuel the jokes and make sure that the teacher is disrespected. i unfortunately have to sit next to the disrespectful kids in 5 of my classes and they greatly distract the class. just remember if a student is disbehaving and you tried a class management plan and it does not work at all, talk to the students and see about their opinions then present what your class has said to someone like the principle

      • Jeannie December 5, 2016 at 11:11 am #

        I taught High School. Notice the past tense verb, “taught.” I have the same problems above, but am also told by administrators there’s nothing more they can do. I taught 50 min classes in which we never got anything done for me having to call parents in the middle of class (which is what I was told to do by admin & why not, I’m not able to teach, anyway) or having to have someone come & remove them from my class. I have no idea what I could’ve done different. I had parents, other teachers, admits, & guidance counselors involved. I’m not supposed to have more than 25 students in a class bc I taught CTE, but I had 30-35 students. Other core academic teachers had 50-60 in their classes, with not everyone even having a desk to sit in. They all had the same problems, but they had no other choice but to stay bc they had to have a job. I went back to being a paramedic I had another choice. I didn’t want to quit. I LOVE teaching, when I can teach. But, like I said, I have no idea what I could’ve done differently. Do you know??

    • kim November 26, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

      It sounds like you have students with trauma in their past or present. Kids with trauma often are misdiagnosed as ADHD, they do not respond to rewards or punishment. As a caregiver to a child of trauma, teachers often get secondary trauma. I hope you seek a counselor yourself to deal with the huge amount of stress. Many schools are finding success with a mindfulness room (to lower stress and pull students back from fight/flight.) Teachers are on the front-lines of this and aren’t getting the support they need. I hope your SPED department can offer some help. Best to you!

  3. Nancy March 12, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    I teach once a week in a classroom and need to review rules, etc, once a week with them, at the beginning of the day as ot was September.
    Even though I do this every time I’m in the classroom, some days are more difficult then others. Some Children still lack respect.
    I totally agree that tgeses rules need to be established on day 1 and need constant review but some years, our classroom composition may not allow us to eliminate those disrespectful behaviours.
    I’ve been tes Hong fur 20 years and I do see a change in children. Some are not used to having consequences for their actions and having an adult telling them what to do.
    It’s a challenge!

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Nancy,

      Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teacher was written especially for teachers who see students only once a week.


  4. Montayne March 12, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    This Article didn’t really explain anything. All I got out of this was that you have to make the group of trouble makers feel like part of the class as a whole and soon they’ll all be smiling and compliant. So what specific things would you suggest a teacher in this situation do to make the group of kids giving you trouble feel apart of the group and accountable for their actions?

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Montayne,

      There is far more to it than that, which is why we now have four books, 350+ articles, and training programs on the way. The article is an introduction to effective classroom management and the only honest way of answering the teacher’s email question (from the article).


    • Sarah Gardner April 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm #


      I read and copied a lot of the articles about dealing with disrespectful students into a Word file, this week. I am straight out of Graduate school, and I know I need better classroom management skills. I am a substitute teacher, but I am tired of being treated like a substitute teacher! I am a certified School Media Specialist (librarian), and I get to meet with a lot of classes, daily. And recently, I started working with an After-School program, twice a week, to teach literacy in Reading and Writing to a group of 20+ 6-8 graders.

      The first day I met with the students, I introduced myself and told them what we would be doing. I felt like I had their attention, but there was entirely too much side-talking, talking out of turn, and moving about going on. Most of the students did quiet down to listen to the book being read to them. In the second meeting, I started a lesson on writing letters to the President of the United States in their writing books. There was a lot of grumbling, side-talking, rough-housing, and whining. As I read the last half of the book from the previous lesson, a new student kept complaining out loud (and asking if he could go to the gym… alternating with “are we done yet?”) I felt total without control! I could see that half of the class were paying attention, but the other half weren’t. Later, another teacher in the room, took the young student aside to explain how disrespectful he had been, and had him apologize to me. I am old enough to be the student’s parents’ mother! I went home feeling defeated, yet, knowing there had to be a better way.

      I found the Smart Classroom Management website, again. I’ve been reading everything for three days! I went to school this afternoon with a game plan: re-introduce myself to every student; explain the goals of the After-School program, again; display the written 4 rules of classroom behavior and consequences for breaking the rules; have a teacher help me to model rule breaking and consequences; teach my lesson with joy.

      I explained to the students that I teach elementary and middle school students and adults in basic education and GED classes. And I cannot teach if they are being disrespectful, disruptive, rude, and inattentive. Next week, there will be three teachers teaching in the open cafeteria at the same time, and we all plan to use the same rules.

      My third meeting was awesome! The students laughed when I dismissed the “helping teacher” from the group, and I gave those students a warning. I told them these rules are serious: Listening; Being Respectful; Raising Hands; and putting cellphones away during instruction time. I warned about 5 students, and I only had to dismiss 2 from the group for a few minutes. The calm that ensued, and the on-task working attitudes were a joy to behold! I used “In a moment we will be doing….; I explained the directions; I asked if anyone didn’t understand; I told them how long they had to work on the task; and then “You may be begin, now.” Then I walked away and let them complete the task. I came back a minute before time was up and regained their attention to discuss the lesson.

      Two students thanked me at the end of today’s lesson; and the four disruptive students left with smiles and dignity intact. (The harshest thing I said was “It’s not cute to behave disrespectfully in class.”) I was told that the last teacher promised the students pizza if they could behave better for two weeks. I didn’t promise any rewards, but I told them their incentive is to do better in all their academic subjects, and later in college and future jobs.

      I know I have a long journey ahead, and that I have to stay consistent. And I will. And I have a lot reading to do as I delve into the archives of the Smart Classroom Management website. This site is awesome! Thanks Michael!!!

      • Michael Linsin April 8, 2016 at 6:51 am #

        It’s my pleasure, Sarah! Way to go! I’m so glad you found us.


    • Karen April 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

      I agree with Montayne.

      The article is just a basic statement about the importance of having classroom management (…an “of course!” response from me). It does not address the issue in a practical way with ideas/strategies a teacher can use in the scenario that is raised in the article.

  5. Linda March 12, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    you offer the advice…. “Create a clear, no-nonsense classroom management plan that covers every possible misbehavior. Teach, model, and practice it so there are no misunderstandings or excuses not to follow it.”

    Why do you think that we’ve not already done that?

    We call parents into meetings? But there are no consequences only excuses as to why he behaves this way. “His father is not around.” “I don’t want him to have to work so hard.”…

    So I’m asking you?… Model for me the “……….clear, no-nonsense classroom management plan that covers every possible misbehavior. ”

    We have more behavior problems than ever before and no one is holding parents accountable! It’s a one way street because we must now teach academics and manners, behavior, along with social skills which is turning many new and passionate teachers off. If we don’t have our principals, VP, AP, and parents to help us?, support us?, coming back with blame onto us for poor classroom management Michael?.. Then I fear “accountability” is a useless word for our future generation of adults. Are we really preparing them for the “real world?” I’d get fired if I didn’t do my job. As I should but I see a large wave of parents doing everything for their children.

    So please?… Once again… Show me……”a clear, no-nonsense classroom management plan that covers every possible misbehavior.” Because I e been Teaching, modeling and practicing it so there are no misunderstandings!

    Then we have a parent meeting because the student will say…”I didn’t know…”

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Linda,

      I can definitely understand your frustration. The article was in response to a question from a reader, and I answered it as directly as I could. However, I realized as I was writing it that it would prompt questions, which is why I included the links and suggestions for future reading. The article is a broad overview of our approach to difficult students. For details on everything from how to talk to difficult students to how to motivate them to want to listen and learn, please refer to the Difficult Student category of the archive. I’m also happy to walk you through exactly, step-by-step what you need to do to have the class you want. If you’re interested, check out the link to personal coaching. 🙂


  6. JPB March 12, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    I disagree with this article to a certain extent. While high, clear expectations work very well with 99 percent of the students out there, we are getting more and more students with emotional issues who could care less about those sorts of things. I have an emotionally disturbed child in my class who desperately needs special education. She is rude, swears, hits kids, screams in the middle of class to scare people and laughs about it, etc. She refuses to leave the classroom when I try to get her to go to a quiet place to calm down and has even just left campus and gone home. It is incredibly hard on the rest of the class and on me. My principal is very supportive and removes her as soon as I call. My expectations of this child are high and very clear. I’ve tried every behavior chart, system possible and nothing works. We are just dealing with it and trying to make it through the year. We are testing her and trying to get the paperwork in order to see if we can find a special class for her somewhere in the district.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm #


      When you get a chance, please read through the Difficult category of the archive. Our approach to challenging students is likely very different than what you have tried before. If after using our strategies, you still feel the same way, please email me and I will offer you a free one-hour personal coaching session with me.


  7. Frances Frederickson March 12, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    I said it before and after this article I say it again.
    I was a new teacher (age 59) and had many bad days
    with 6th grade students and up. This was of course as
    I subbed. Students would sit on their desks windowsills and on
    the floor. When the bell would ring I ‘d say take your seats and we
    will begin with….They then would turn to their neighbor and start
    talking, Happily there where a few good students who would say,
    “Come on guys”, and then we where able to proceed. I am a
    short Mexican lady who looks like she came out of the kitchen from
    a taco place. I’m not! I worked hard to get my degree with family to
    look after but of course the children never knew that. I hope that
    these students became good people after all there fun in school.

    My 3rd grade class was the highlight of my
    career in teaching they where in a bilingual class and
    I also had good input with their parents,

  8. Treasure March 12, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    Thank you for all your insights. They are so helpful.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

      You’re welcome, Treasure!


  9. chris hellner March 12, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    This may work well for a teacher, but we substitutes don’t have the luxury of day by day enforcement- what do WE do in a situation like that??
    I deal with it a lot in middle school- :(((

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      An ebook for substitute teachers is in the works.


      • Judit Volner March 28, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

        Thanks so much for covering all these topics! I already feel better just because I feel your support and understanding of these difficult situations!

        • Michael Linsin March 28, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

          It’s my pleasure, Judit.


  10. joanna March 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    I find this post annoying as l think the writer has certainly not taught in a difficult area with difficult kids. I enjoy receiving the posts and have implémented many of the methods from teach with the heart. I have 6 classes in middle school and l have one class of 30, 14 year old boys, which is known as the worst class in the school. They are uncontrollable and they delight in it. I have done all the things reccommended but to no avail. The problem is that if the direction does not follow up with severe consequences, you are fighting a losing battle, and the kids know it. They know they will not be expelled (but probably wouldn’t mind if they were), they know that if they don’t turn up for detentions, there is nothing we can do. There has to be a line over which they cannot cross in the school, for class management to work properly.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Joanna,

      I’ve spent 22 of 25 years teaching in very difficult schools. A classroom management plan ebook for middle and high school teachers will hopefully be completed and available before next school year. As for the belief that nothing can be done, I know this isn’t true. I can tell from your email that you haven’t yet had the time to learn our unique approach to classroom management. I urge you to learn the strategies and give it a try. Your situation isn’t hopeless. For the past 25 years I’ve made it my life’s work to uncover the right buttons to push that will allow any teacher—no matter where you work—to create the happy and well-behaved class they really want.


    • Debbie May 5, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

      Exactly. The SCHOOL needs to have a discipline plan with posted consequences. The principal, superintendent, and school board need to back the teachers. Kids know they have more power when they can manipulate their parents. Parents need to know that principals are going to stand with the teachers.

  11. Karen March 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    Your smart classroom ideas are wonderfully put together. I understand that you have had years of experience and have tested these classroom management programs. My question and concern is what to do you do when you have students for a term (9-10) weeks at a time? Often the beginning of the term, the first two weeks, is great! After that things start to fall apart. I have implemented your system multiple times keeping everyone accountable to NO avail. The problem students continue to disrupt. I have a class right now where at least 6 students are consistently disruptive. No matter what I implement it doesn’t or hasn’t worked. Myself and their VP are extremely frustrated but continue to find ways to alter or change their behavior. Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      I wish we had the time and space to answer your question. I would also need to know a lot more about your specific situation in order to give accurate advice. I will say that the answers are here on the SCM website. There are certainly things you’re missing. You may want to consider personal coaching.


      • Karen March 14, 2016 at 7:53 am #

        Hi Michael,
        What more would you need to know? I work in a district that is 78% poverty. I have implemented your strategies to other classes and have NOT had this problem. The class I am talking about is also having difficulties in the ELA, Math, Social Studies, and Science classes, so it isn’t just mine. We have a school wide behavioral rubric that we all implement in our classrooms as well as those specific rules/procedures for our specific classroom. The VP of this 6th grade class has been in education for over 18 years and she too has noticed something different/off about this grade as a whole. She has called parents, made changes across teams to split students up, referred students to Tuesday or Thursday school. We get the same response, apathy, they just don’t care about school. I have tried to make my class fun, what’s not fun about art? I am teaching students how to draw from the basics while allowing those who do know how to forge ahead on their own. If I am working with a group at their table they are great and ‘try’ doing the work. As soon as I move onto another table the group I was just with starts to get louder, disruptive, and disrespectful. I will go to the front of the room, put their name on the board, and move back to the table I was in the middle of a tutorial with. The behavior continues. The VP and I have tried to split the ‘problem’ students up by moving their seats to other tables with no good results. The disruptive students continue to be disruptive at their new table. The students at that table become frustrated and they too begin acting up telling their classmates to stop talking. It is a cycle I can’t nor my VP can seem to break.

        • Peter September 26, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

          I have a similar situation. A group of students that simply should not be in the same classroom. Nothing works except having other adults in the room, but even that fails after a few days. I’m in a small school where these students cannot be broken up into different classes. They have been together for 7 years and every teacher has had this problem every year. Every teacher of every period has a problem with this group. Parents care, but are powerless. No amount of negative consequences matter. I’m resigned to having a class that just won’t learn much this year. It really sucks all joy from teaching. Thank goodness for my other classes. I’ve tried many things on this site and will continue. There are days that seem hopeful. They are usually days that one or more of these students is absent. It is more of a group dynamic. They will never behave well because the rest of the class does. It is too much fun to make things miserable for everyone. I’ll keep trying because that’s what we do. I was hoping this article would help, but the title is misleading. I need an article on what to do when a group of 6 students collude to make the teacher and class miserable. This site is awesome, but it does not cover this situation. These students are violating the civil rights of others and getting away with it.

  12. Chuck March 12, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Great article Michael! I’ve seen this transformation in my class. This was a fairly tough group at the beginning of the year preoccupied with nothing but getting giggles out of their classmates. The rest of the class no longer finds their antics amusing and they’ve joined us as mostly participating members of the class.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

      Thanks Chuck! Good to hear from you again.


  13. Eileen March 12, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Hi Michael, I could be this teacher. Any suggestions for how to work with our guidance and social worker who tell us to implement individual plans with rewards (extra computer time, drawing breaks, etc) for students who are challenging. When I tell them I’d like to treat the class the same, they lecture me on different needs, IEPs …

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

      Hi Eileen,

      This is a topic already on the list of future articles. Stay tuned. 🙂


      • Laurie Potts March 17, 2016 at 3:31 am #

        This happens to a lot of us – we go to an SST or an IEP and we are told to implement a reward system – it is like to me – dealing with terrorists. I think what you are saying is that you do not deal with terrorists. That the classroom rules and procedures are for everyone and everyone is expected to follow them. Would you elaborate on this ? I love your stuff and it has made a difference in my classroom.

  14. Dawn March 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    I was a sub for 8th grade language arts core classes last week, and this scenario of 6 defiant students is exactly what I walked in to on day 1.
    Two girls let me and their classmates overhear their intention to assault me if I “got in their face,” while a male student addressed me with profanities. Others were throwing papers, tearing up books, and grinding tater-tots into the carpet. I recorded each instance of defiance/intimidation in detail, then called campus security and turned in the paperwork. All six were escorted out. This was all a whirlwind in the first 15 minutes of class.
    Briefly, I apologized to the remaining students for the interruption, explaining that I follow district protocol and care about maintaining a classroom environment conducive to learning. Then, we continued with the lesson.
    Day 2, all students were back in class and participated to some degree.
    When I come on to this campus, students treat me like a celebrity. Some of the most “difficult” kids cut their own classes to come find me, just for a smile and recognition– I remember their names- then I send them back to class, of course.
    This is a beleaguered school. It’s hard to work here. But the example of being fair and dependable makes a huge impact. With this age group I am also very forthright about what they can expect from high school. They may sabotage their own academic opportunities before they even recognize the value of school. My analogy is of trapping themselves in their relatively small box of experience– very confining!

  15. Doreen March 12, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    Hi Denise,

    I’m hearing you! When you have children that have experienced severe truama at home, neglect or undiagnosed conditions these classroom strategies may not be entirely successful. It would be good if you had welfare support for these children to do a ‘check in’ before they entered the class to ensure their day was going to be successful. Also, try restorative circles – google it. Doreen

  16. Helen Solomon March 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    I have four learners in a class of 24 who seem to prefer to disrupt than study. They blatently disrespect both other learners and myself and it’s become a big issue for me. Those disrespectful learners say that I can’t teach and that’s why they behave so badly. I have asked for the principal to step in, for warnings to be written, parents to be brought in..but its true they have naturally now singled themselves from the group. I felt so upset by the last lesson I just walked out. It was down to being scared but I am not use to such blatent disrespect as I work in the film industry.
    I guess I do need support in how to alter the dynamic and realise gaining control takes several approaches. My concern is these learner’s don’t care if they upset you, mis-treat you. Learners never use to be so viscious. I can only go in how things are in the industry. If you did that to your senior Director a PM would show you the door. Zero tolerance, means zero tolerance.
    No matter how dynamic the lesson I make it, they would prefer to play up. I really don’t know what to do…any thoughts?

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

      Hi Helen,

      The article above is my best answer—including the suggestions at the end—short of one-on-one coaching.


  17. Courtney March 12, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    I teach 9th and 10th grade, and I’m in my first year. I hAve a couple of classes where kids are having side conversations, out of their chairs, goofing off during my instruction. When I talk to them after class, I get eye rolls or rushed conversations. I have tried to call some parents, email parents, and give out classroom detentions. A lot of this has not really worked, or it works short term. My question is should I tell the whole class we are working on a one warning system for any distraction, and then warn kids once a day before punishment? I am also thinking of moving to referrals as a consequence of ignoring the one warning for any distraction. Referrals are pretty much a talk with a dean that leads to a school detention. Is it bad of I continue to send a lot of kids to the dean? I’m at the point where I am getting super stressed out because kids are not changing and I don’t feel in control sometimes. Help please!

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      Hi Courtney,

      This is a big question, but one I hope to answer in an ebook for middle and high school teachers I hope to begin soon and have ready before school begins in the fall.


  18. Megan March 12, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    Thank you for all you do to help teachers! Keep writing! Everything you say is so beneficial.

    • Michael Linsin March 12, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

      You’re welcome, Megan! Will do. Thanks for the encouragement.


  19. ALDE March 12, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    For me the problem is…lack of appropriate consequences for high school students. I used to hold them after class for 30 seconds and that was pretty effective, but the principal says I cannot do that. We aren’t allowed to assign school detentions. We can assign our own, short detentions, but most kids ride the bus and there are other logistical problems with that. Ideas, anyone?

    • Michael Linsin March 13, 2016 at 7:40 am #

      Hi ALDE,

      We are planning a classroom management plan ebook for middle and high school teachers. Hoping to have it ready by next school year.


  20. Judy March 12, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve tried to follow these strategies and they have helped considerably however at our school, I can’t send notes home without involving the leadership and now they have come up with a different system that I have to follow for warnings and timeouts. However whenever consequences have been given, leadership talks to the class and they always come up with a story that suggests that I have done something unfair even though their behaviour is the same in all of their specialist classes possibly excluding sport. So I don’t have a way of giving consequences without involving leadership now. I’m sure that there are still things I need to do to improve but it seems that this is progressively undermining my authority. Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin March 13, 2016 at 7:45 am #

      Hi Judy,

      Remember, what consequences you use are less important than following them to a tee. As long as you’re consistent, and have some way of contacting parents, you should be okay. Indeed, I would avoid having administration talk to your class. We’ve written about this topic in the past. (Please use the search function of the website.)


  21. Gretta Williams March 12, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

    I agree with this article one hundred per cent. I have observed that an essential element is for me to remember that initially, it is not even about me. I can choose which ” hill I want to die on.”
    Time after time, it has paid off. Over time I have been able to build rapport with the student who is disconnected and disrespectful. Once there is even the smallest personal liaison, the begins to be hope. I have also found it to be true that the rest of the class appreciates that we preserve the order in the classroom. I often say in difficult moments, “I am the oldest one in the room, so we’re gonna do things my way. When you get to be old, you get that same luxury.” Cracks up the middle school orchestra scholars I teach. I have had my share of disrespectful, recalcitrant scholars. I have additionally found that bringing the parents in the picture by inviting them to observe the class to see what we are doing as professionals helps a lot. You only need to have about 3 parent shadowings early in the school year to make the point. It is a great silent “enforcer.”

  22. Angel March 13, 2016 at 12:18 am #

    This article is really vague:
    How do you establish those boundaries?
    How do you teach, model and practice that plan and, can we have an example of such plan?
    If you have previously answered these questions in any of your articles would you be so kind as to include a link?

    Thank you

    • Michael Linsin March 13, 2016 at 7:51 am #

      Hi Angel,

      Occasionally, we have to provide the big picture. This article is one of those times. We have over 350 articles in our archive that show precisely how to do everything we recommend. There are links in the article itself, but we try to limit them to ensure that the article is readable. My best advice is to peruse the article categories (bottom right sidebar) to find what you’re looking for. You can also use the search function (top, right of page). You should have no trouble getting the information you need. We have written extensively about each of the topics you mentioned. Also, the book The Classroom Management Secret is our best and most complete resource.


  23. Allison Welch March 13, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    I have a “you take my time I take yours” policy. In front of the classroom there is a “focus material” folder. In it I have some time consuming worksheets at the ready, a minimum 30 minute homework assignment. “Johnny, do you need focus material?…” If it is a group effort I have some ideas for a one page typed for for the whole class (just mention it and the class starts self-policing immediately!). Give this consequence once or twice and you won’t need it the whole year. In fact, once your reputation is established you won’t get challenged as much. One of my favorite sayings is “if you don’t discipline yourself, someone else will discipline you.”

  24. ruth March 14, 2016 at 5:21 am #

    Where can I buy the book?

    • Michael Linsin March 14, 2016 at 6:52 am #

      Hi Ruth,

      You’ll find all our books along the right sidebar.


  25. Biko Kujifi March 14, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Hello Michael,

    After reading your response to this email I was curious to know, how to handle six disrespectful students, out of how many exactly? Perhaps some strategies are more appropriate and worth a go if it’s six disrespectful students out of 16, or even 20? My classroom is currently at 28, and your response caught my attention as we indeed have 6 very disrespectful and emotionally challenged students, all of which are boys, with a few challenging girls as well.

    I suppose I would like to know more about your difficult student category and what environments these strategies are working out of. From my teaching experience thus far, student-teacher ratio is staying at the top of my list for a realistic classroom management plan to truly be effective. Although we have a lead teacher, teaching assistant, and student aid, working inside of a 8x9yrd classroom presents a list of problems. Is this standard? Should we be able to achieve success?

    • Michael Linsin March 15, 2016 at 6:59 am #

      Hi Biko,

      Yes, all of the strategies are designed and proven to be effective with large class sizes (i.e. 30+).


  26. John Dredla April 2, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    Do you have a camera in my classroom? There have been many times this year that you have given exactly the advice I need at exactly the right time, as if you are watching me and my students. This article was exactly on point, and now it is weeks later and things are very much improved. I have bought one of your books and will continue to support this service. Please keep looking in on me and continuing to advise me as you can. It has been a great help.

    • Michael Linsin April 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

      Will do, John! I appreciate the support.


  27. Kim Strehlow April 9, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I began a behavior plan this year very similar to what you described, and it has been amazing. The approach is that we are all pulling for a safe and fun environment, and it takes teamwork. if someone is disrupting that, then their behavior is telling us they need support. Non judge mental, but they have t step outside while the rest of the class is supportive. (No comments or laughing or they also step outside). The student who is outside can return only when they are able t tell me what behavior I am “interrupting ” and then how they will return successfully to class. They do the processing, I do not give any answers. (No lectures). It is totally a student focused approach.
    This gives me time to get the class calm and refocused, then let the student refocus before returning. Of course some behaviors require more intensive processing, but I am talking about the disruptor.

    • Kim Strehlow April 9, 2016 at 9:55 am #

      I am definitely going to check out some of your materials. Thanks!

      • Michael Linsin April 9, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

        Sounds good, Kim!


  28. Jennifer April 9, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    My question is how to establish consequences when I cannot determine which child/children are causing the disruption. The classroom is long and narrow, and there are 27 students in this particular group of 7th graders. I have a handle on the three to four who are the ring leaders, and you are right private conversations only backfire. But, I can never see/hear which students are dong the talking/throwing of items/stealing of items to address anything or to reinforce consistent classroom expectations other than to stop teaching and wait for the disruption to end.

    • Michael Linsin April 9, 2016 at 1:12 pm #

      Hi Jennifer,

      I’ve covered this to some degree in previous articles, but I’ll be sure to address it more specifically in the future.


    • TF Jenssen June 3, 2016 at 4:52 am #

      Hi Jennifer, that happens to me all the time ( whenever there’s disruption). It’s so hard and frustrating! How on Earth am I supposed to warn someone if I don’t even know who broke the rule??

  29. Ann April 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

    You know what I’m looking for is a magic bullet. I teach art in high school to high poverty kids. It is a “blow off” class in their opinion. I’ve done everything I can think including many of your strategies but sometimes you get a group of 35 students (normal classroom size for me) that are also high poverty and with also high numbers of special ed. For example: I have a class of 32 students and 3 are autistic. They do not have assistance or para professionals in art. 5 students are ADD/504. 25 students are classified as at risk. So maybe 5 students have normal families, are not at risk, and do not have any other issue as far as special ed or etc. What is your solution? Ideas?

    • Michael Linsin April 21, 2016 at 6:54 am #

      Hi Ann,

      For specific solutions to tailored to your situation, you would need to sign up for personal coaching. I don’t have the time or space to answer your question here. I would also have questions of my own in order to provide reliable help.


  30. JD Sayle May 5, 2016 at 5:27 am #

    Thank you again Michael for a well-written and thought provoking article! This response is for those educators who have problems with CONSISTENT student misbehavior despite following through with your classroom management plan. Michael Linsin states “It’s a classroom management problem, not an individual student problem.” and that may very well be true. When you examine the literature on classroom management strategies and investigate the research on adolescent psychological and social development you will find that the majority (upwards of 80% or higher) of students only need what is termed as “Tier 1” support. That type of support is what Michael Linsin advocates for and he is 100% right in his assumption that it works the overwhelming majority of the time.

    That said, if you are consistently following through with your classroom management plan (and you must be brutally honest with yourself on that consistency point!), your plan has been taught and retaught to the class and individual students multiple times, and a student (or a few students) still makes a choice to misbehave (they are human beings with a free will just like you) it is necessary to engage in what the literature refers to as “Tier 2” support. This is where you engage the Parent(s)/Guardian(s), school counselor, the struggling student, and possibly administration. Your work with the parent and counselor will involve developing a behavior reflection/redirection plan. It will also include actionable, documentable (ie – paper or e-mail) outcomes that every one can read and ask questions about. It is essential to HAVE THE STUDENT INVOLVED and listen to their suggestions (sometimes they may just amaze you with what they have to say). In every situation that I have done this the parent – even if it took a LONG time to get them in to the school, or on the phone, or facetime/skyped in . . . – was great to work with and shared how they appreciate our work and help. If/when necessary, get administration involved and even if you don’t get them involved right away you will have lots of documentation of all the Tier 2 strategies you’ve employed thus far. You can give copies of these to administration. Lastly, continue to follow through with admins (once each week or once every other week) because they’re busy professionals just like you with lots on their plates as well. Good luck and happy teacher appreciation week!!!

  31. Lwells August 1, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a veteran teacher and this is a common struggle, but well worth it. I had a class this past year just like the one you describe, but in the end there remained only one student who continued to be a problem. He never seemed to notice that the rest of his crew had moved on; when he acted out they didn’t even bother to look at him.

  32. Jimmy August 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm #


    I work at an alternative school ( kids come to me when they get kicked out of their regular schools for drugs, gang stuff, bad behavior, etc). I am a third year teacher who has a pretty good grip on classroom management but my principal (boss) hasn’t a clue how to do his job. Discipline lacks in my place or work and students pick up on it and things get bad quick. These kids refuse to work or comply with rules. All I have as a consequence is to throw them out to a behavior room, but they return in 10 min. Why do I stay employed here? Well I do enjoy working with tough kids because I have the patience for them but I am getting to my wits end because of lax leadership. Any suggestions or strategies on how to deal with an idiot of a boss and “team” and if anyone has strategies on “teaching” these tough kids who hate school would be much appreciated

    • Michael Linsin August 16, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

      Hi Jimmy,

      We have a Difficult Student category of our archive, where you may find some useful strategies. As for dealing with your administration, it’s an area we hope to cover in the future.


  33. Samantha September 9, 2016 at 10:49 am #

    I have noticed a behaviour pattern in my classes. I am obviously doing something wrong, as same pattern follows. I teach language classes once a week and I always seem to have a good rapport with students initially and they respond to me well. I like to think I always hold the occasional disruptive students accountable and seem to get on well with the class. Then usually after 2 or 3 months they start playing up, acting silly, goofy and rude sometimes. There are always the ring leaders and the others who follow them. Some transform before my eyes and turn rude, irresponsive or apathetic. My lessons are always carefully planned and I try to motivate their learning and encourage them to do their best. I am most likely lacking a good classroom management plan. I have been teaching for 3 years now. Why is this happening to me? How can I be at such a loss? I’m really feeling stupid and the world’s worst teacher, despite all the hours I put in preparing lessons, even buying things to enhance the lessons and motivate my pupils, making games, cutting and laminating printed stuff, and doing all the paperwork required. I live for my work but I am feeling so disheartened for working hard and failing so hard too! The only thing that keeps me going is that the ones who enjoy my lessons have made a great amount of progress and are beginning to think and speak in the language I’m teaching them. Funny, but that includes sometimes the disruptive kids as well. Why do they do this? I sense the other teachers are beginning to criticise my classroom management skills and I feel humiliated.

    • Michael Linsin September 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Samantha,

      I’m so sorry you’re struggling. In order for me to give you accurate and reliable advice on a situation that is so specific, I’d have to speak with you. However, my best guess is that you’re not holding your students accountable for their misbehavior. Having good rapport is important, but it’s only part of the equation. You must combine it with a strict adherence to a predetermined set of rules and consequences. If you’re an elementary teacher, I recommend the book for specialists: Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers. The advice therein works for all specialists, including computer, library, science, and language teachers. Also, I’m always available for personal coaching.


  34. Samantha September 10, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks, Michael. I think you’re spot on right.

    I find it so hard to spot every child who is misbehaving, especially in a grey area. Funny enough, I am actually very passionate about what I do, therefore I get so involved I miss that ‘sneak in’ behaviour creeping in, such as the small chit-chat. I give them lots of pair work but they start falling out in a way I have no patience to deal with. It’s the first time I’m dealing with larger classes of 30 to 35 but I must not find excuses for myself anymore.

    It’s mainly year 6, the older ones, but I know it’s a general pattern with me and I struggle to get it right, even when I know what the problem might be. It’s like I enter the classroom and I forget everything I promised myself and planned to do with behaviour management. The TAs usually help me but I’m the one who is supposed to be in charge in the classroom. I am beginning to feel embarrassed.

    I’m much better, though, at controlling my emotions but I feel at a loss with attitude problems. I can easily relate to anger but I feel drained when I have to deal with attitude. I was told some of the girls in this classroom have already had their periods, in elementary school, last year during year 5, and they are the worst, but only with me. I know they are going through changes but it’s my lack of control that sets them off even more.

    Anyway, thanks, and I will see what I can do, including buying your book.

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2016 at 8:52 am #

      You’re welcome, Samantha.


  35. Samantha September 16, 2016 at 1:22 am #

    So apparently setting a list of rules is not allowed in one of the schools I work anymore. The word rules should never be used but expectations, duties and rights. I do agree but on top of all the hard time I am having, someone blew the whistle on me after seeing a set of rules which I had gone over and explained by using positive words and phrases full of Dos, no DON’Ts. To be fair, the Head took the responsibility because she had not told me about this before I started, and I’m not there every day. What really upsets me is that small talk behind someone’s back for something I could have been helped with by having a word before taking the issue to admin.

    This is the end for me. I must not teach. I come to the conclusion some people should not teach, no matter how passionate they are about their teaching and I’m one of them.

  36. Asmaa October 28, 2016 at 5:31 am #

    You just described what I’m stuck on right now, but the article encouraged me a lot as it described how I want to feel and my students in class. GOOD EFFORT 🙂

    • Michael Linsin October 28, 2016 at 9:28 am #

      Thanks Asmaa!


  37. Fred October 30, 2016 at 7:38 am #

    I am an middle school elective, music appreciation, and there are moments my room is a coliseum and there are days I am the gladiator, on the inside crying out, “are you not entertained?” I work hard and wear my passion well, but it is scoffed at and not appeciated by the six or more athletes. They treat me and what i am doing as a joke. They are the popular kids. I correct a behavior, call a parent, my name is mud on social media with the students, schmack is spread at the games by the moms, and before you know it, the hopeless moments silences the good moments. It makes life in the population difficult. Their parents have even told their kiddo in conferneces, as long as you are passing your core aubjects, I don’t care about that grade. I am looking forward to further reading. I am facing extreme burnout and it may be too late for me.

  38. catherine November 1, 2016 at 12:33 am #

    These strategies do not work at my high school. The students who are highjacking the learning and teaching in the classroom do not care about consequences. In fact, they relish being sent out. They simply do not care. Their parents either defend them or have no control over their children. It is so frustrating reading about management plans and trying them out and in the end feeling like a crap teacher because some students make the decision every single day to misbehave. They do this in all classes, there are no real consequences, the teachers’ hands are tied and we can only keep issuing warnings and lunch detentions, even suspensions have no effect.

  39. Jennifer November 2, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    I agree with so many of the comments, not helpful! The teacher who posed the original question was looking for help with 6 difficult students, I can totally relate to their question and problem, having at least that many this year. I was offended when the writer of the article said, you don’t have a problem with 6 students, you’ve got a classroom management problem…ummm, sorry but no. I’ve got a problem with 6 who are disrespectful and don’t care no matter how many times I reteach my expectations or attempt to make them a part of my class.

  40. Mauricio Martinez December 4, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    The biggest issue in the American education system is RESPECT. In other countries teachers invest 10% in the discipline 90% in the academy. In the US of A is on the contrary. Some school community members -teachers, staff, board-say it is because we have low income families students. So if you are poor, you are allowed to curse, fight, sleep, being tardy, DISRESPECT your teacher and peers. This article is barely useful. My suggestion is not to produce so many books for teachers but for students and families. This article as the majority I have read about Ed in the States is the same. BLAMING TEACHERS for broken homes, family neglect, child abuse, drug consumption and hopeless dreams for students. The authors are putting the responsibility of education on teachers shoulders. And off course we have, but families and society must be the foundation.