You begin the school year with so much hope.
But then, not an hour after teaching your classroom management plan, your students are misbehaving.
They’re talking when you’re talking.
They’re leaving their seats without permission.
They’re calling out, giggling, and ignoring your directions.
It’s disheartening—and only natural to feel as if you did something wrong.
It’s only natural to think that maybe you weren’t clear enough, maybe you didn’t model with enough detail or communicate with enough conviction.
And although these can be significant factors in how quickly and eagerly students respond to your behavior expectations, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.
Not even close.
You see, it isn’t unusual to be tested upon first introducing your classroom management plan. At some schools, and with some students, it’s even expected—no matter how thorough you teach your plan.
So if it happens to you, there is no need to panic. In fact, your first response should be to do absolutely nothing.
Don’t jump in and try to stop the misbehavior. Don’t raise your voice or show your frustration. Don’t even try to enforce consequences.
Just wait. Breathe. Observe. Smile inwardly—because you’re going to fix it.
It’s important to mention that if behavior is poor from the get-go, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a bad year. It just means that your students don’t believe that you’re really going to do what you say.
Perhaps it’s because you’re a new teacher or at a new school. Perhaps their previous teacher or teachers were inconsistent and had poor classroom management skills.
Perhaps you’re a bit nervous, tentative, and not quite sure of yourself—and your students can sense it.
None of it is predictive of a stressful or unsuccessful year. Nor is it anything to get overly concerned about. It’s what you do in response that’s important.
Most teachers will try to enforce consequences as fast as they can, but this is a mistake with a large group of misbehaving students because it risks inciting aggressive and disrespectful pushback.
It’s also incredibly stressful and puts you at odds with your new class. Getting angry and taking it personally, too, is a mistake that will undermine your ability to take back control and begin creating a well-behaved class.
No, it’s best just to keep your cool and watch. Let them notice you waiting unconcerned. Give it a few minutes, and in all likelihood, they’ll begin to settle down and look your way. (There are several reasons for this that we’ll save for a future article.)
If they don’t, however, if they’re hellbent on continuing to disrupt, then calmly and kindly begin shooing them to their seats while repeating a request for quiet attention.
The idea is to gently guide them from chaos and excitability to calm and agreeable. (Again, we’ll cover why this strategy is effective in future articles.)
Keep your voice soft and maintain an even keel. Continue in this vein of guiding and requesting until they’re generally quiet and looking in your direction.
Then, without explanation, immediately jump into reteaching your classroom management plan as if for the first time.
If they complain, ignore it. Do not engage in discussion or debate about what are your responsibilities as the leader of the class. Your classroom management plan, and the rules and consequences that govern it, isn’t negotiable.
This time, though, when you teach your plan, you must do it with far greater boldness and determination. You must find the strength within to give it all you’ve got.
Ramp up the detail, the clarity, and the passion.
This is your career, after all, and you’re going to be with this class for the next nine months. So teach your plan in a way that signals to every student that you’re no ordinary teacher and yours is no ordinary classroom.
Remove any doubt that they’re going to be held accountable for every rule transgression.
Model, playact, and emote what breaking rules looks and feels like. Let them visualize the experience. Walk your students through the precise steps a misbehaving student would take from warning to parent contact.
Teach the heck out of it, leaving nothing to chance and nothing to misunderstand. Because the way you teach your classroom management plan matters.
You mustn’t be intimidated or fearful.
Exceptional classroom management, especially with a tough class, takes courage. And if you’re not feeling confident, if your heart is beating out of your chest and your palms are sweaty, then fake it.
Pretend you have all the power and confidence you need to have the exact class you want. Believe. Trust. Take a leap of faith, and they will respond.
After checking for understanding through questioning, practice, and/or role-play—which can vary depending on grade level—you’re ready to begin holding them accountable.
If, however, a few days later it happens again—more than a few students are misbehaving and you’re feeling as if you’re losing control—then cancel whatever lesson or activity you have planned and teach your classroom management plan again.
And if need be, again.
Teach it until they “get it.” Teach it until they know that rebelling is futile. Teach it until they can’t wait to show you how well they can follow it.
Never, ever accept less than what is best for your students, their education, and their future.
Be the teacher they need.
And they’ll be the class you want.
If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.