Teacher’s Pest: How to Deal with a Disruptive Student

How to Deal with a Disruptive Student

Talk to any teacher and you’ll find even in the most well-behaved classes there were at least one or two students that caused real problems.

The disruptive student isn’t usually a bully. He or she may be very talkative, play around in class, or interrupt when others are speaking. As a matter-of-fact, at times he or she may even exhibit exemplary behavior. The problem is this student keeps others in class from learning by constantly causing distractions during instruction.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with a student or students who regularly keep his/her classmates from learning.

I’ve got My Eye on You (Monitoring Behavior)

Most disruptive children thrive on having an audience. They will find someone to needle or befriend.

Move the student in close proximity to your desk. You will need to monitor his/her behavior more often. Try to use nonverbal cues to stop undesired behavior. Have a quiet signal, tap him/her lightly on the shoulder as you walk by, or give the student your best “I mean business” look. For most elementary aged student these are effective techniques.

Try not to stop what you’re doing to directly address him/her. The child probably enjoys the attention, even if it’s negative.

Don’t expect miracles overnight. Be consistent in monitoring the student’s behavior and causing him/her to stop. It will take time for the student to get the message.

A Change of Scenery (Removal from the Room)

Sometimes the best remedy is to remove the problematic student by sending him/her to another classroom. If the disruptive behavior doesn’t warrant an office visit (talking too much, goofing off), work out an arrangement with another teacher to keep him/her for awhile.

Always send work with the student so he/she has something to do while out of the room. You don’t want to burden the other teacher with having to prepare work for your student. Not to mention, the child should still be required to complete his/her class work.

If possible, try to send the student to a class on the same grade level. One grade below is also okay. Some schools prefer that teachers not send students out to a lower grade. It can be seen as an attempt to humiliate the child. Check your district or school’s policy on what is permissible. Your principal can give you guidance as well.

A Little Quiet Time (The Seat Change)

If sending the student out isn’t an option, move him or her to an area of the room away from other students. Removing the student from an audience or friend may help keep him/her from causing trouble.

When you move the student, try to do it without making a big scene. Sometimes by just walking over, picking up his/her things, placing them on another table and motioning for him/her to move without stopping your lesson too much is best. Don’t let him/her speak to you or try to explain.

Say, “We’ll discuss it later, just sit here for now.”

Don’t get into an argument or draw out the discussion at that moment.

The Parent Teacher Connection

If the above actions don’t substantially keep the student from disrupting your class, it’s time to bring in the parent(s).

Don’t sugarcoat or minimize what’s happening. Talking too much is a genuine problem in the classroom. If other children are kept from learning because one child constantly talks, make noises, or bothers them, that IS a problem.

The parents must be shown how serious the problem is. Keep good anecdotal records on how often the behavior occurs, what it is, and what your actions were.

When parents are presented with documented proof of what is happening and how often, it’s hard for them to try to dismiss the behavior as “just what kids do.”

The Administrative Intervention

Most principals don’t like when teachers send students to the office for “talking too much” or “disrupting the class.” Be prepared to have to convince your administrator to give you some support.

Those same notes you prepared for the parents should be shown to the principal. Your administrator needs to know exactly what kinds of behavior you are referring to and the impact on instruction and learning. He or she will be hard pressed to dismiss your concerns once you show your evidence.

Final Observations

Disruptive students have unfortunately become a recurring problem for most teachers. In most instances, the teacher can successfully curb or stop the inappropriate behavior.

However, there are times when a teacher may require outside help or assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support. You’re not alone, nor should you be.