It was a good 10 minutes since Deborah had entered the classroom and there was no sign of the children dialing down. Even her instructions and protests to get the children to be quiet were only faintly heard — such was the noise the grade 3 students made. Have you had to counter any such situation? What do you think Deborah did wrongly here?
If you think she could not control the class because she was short of resources, know that Deborah had all the tools and the temperament to handle the class. The mistake she made was to address the class as a whole. Yes, you need to try and address children one at a time, and in unconventional ways, to have their attention. You would always find one student or a select few initiating the troublemaking process in your class. The rest of the children, maybe in clusters, would essentially be following these initiators. So, to make the entire class stop causing trouble, catch hold of those initiators and teach them how to behave rather than shouting to the entire class. Make sure you find enough leverage to make the students not want to repeat the encounter with you. By finding even one person pulled out, the rest of the class will slow down.
So when you get down to restrict children, what is the first step you take? Ask questions? Well, that would be another mistake. Asking questions as a measure to bring discipline could mean opening yourself to manipulation through unwanted discussions. For instance, if you ask the children in your class to do a certain task and someone wanders into doing something else instead, you might ask why he/she is indulging in something other than that asked for. Not all children respond positively to such questions. Some might even rebel. To avoid such instances, you could refrain from asking questions and instead make statements, reminding what he/she is losing by not performing the task like the others in the class. This might not always put an end to the problem, but you will at least be reinforcing the learning outcome to the children.
Another very common mistake teachers make is to warn children when they don’t listen in the class. Think about it — has warning children ever worked out for you? Many teachers resort to warning children as a measure to make them take them seriously. But it backfires more often than not. When enquired, a few teachers claimed that they get a better control of the class when they don’t give warnings to the children. Why don’t you, too, try to jump to introducing the consequence, directly? The next time a child disturbs your class, rather than warning him/her to be quiet, inform him/her what wrong he/she is doing and, let us say, ask him/her to meet you after the period. How you deal with the child after the period could be driven based on his/her response to your clarification in the class.
To be able to avoid any kinds of mistakes in class, the one thing you must be prepared with is a concrete plan for the lesson you want to teach in the class. More than half of the discipline issues arise in the time when children don’t have anything meaningful to do. Many teachers walk into a class without any preparation, anticipating to have a spontaneous session but fail to grab children’s attention just because they cannot keep them engaged. Teachers need to make a tight plan to ensure that every student in his/her class is kept active throughout the period. Poor behaviour, in many cases, is the outcome of children not feeling competent, and, as a result, feeling bored or restless. Work towards keeping them meaningfully engaged at all times, and be assured of a positive response from them.
There would be times when you might find it difficult to control children despite not committing any mistakes in the class. How can you get them to take you seriously then? Let us say a child does not say anything but expresses indifference to a task through body language. In such a case, you could initiate the task and ask him/her to join you in performing it. Once he/she realises that the task is actually interesting, he/she will be on his/her own. And then, if you suspect that a child is secretly indulging in some mischief in the class, don’t yell at him/her but simply walk up to him/her and stand behind him/her till the time he/she realises that you have taken notice. And while you do this, ensure not to stop what you were doing in the class. Once the child knows that you are onto him/her, he/she might avoid repeating the mischief.
The most popular of the mistakes that teachers make in class is to, voluntarily or involuntarily, come off somewhat like a boss to children. It is quite usual for children to get arrogant or restless to cover up their boredom. And if they dislike something, they tend to react candidly. But that does not mean teachers can respond to them in the same way. Patience and workarounds are necessary to get a child to cooperate with you. Be a good friend rather than instructing the children all the time. When someone comes to you with a question, you may choose to kneel down to take yourself to his/her height to make him/her feel more comfortable. You may even occasionally display affection (in the form of a hug, pat, or clap) as a sign of recognizing the children who showcase positive behaviour or even those who correct themselves.