How to Take Control of an Unruly Class: Part I

When I first started teaching, I had many classes that were difficult. I honestly didn’t realize how well-behaved the students from my first year were until much later on. So many of the problems I had with them were because of my inexperience. Obviously the more experience I gained, the easier classroom management became. It’s actually been a handful of years since I had a class I really struggled to keep control of.

That was until this year. I knew from day one that the last class of the day had the potential to go off the rails. I missed a day in November and apparently they were out of control. But it wasn’t until after Christmas break that they began to act like that with me. Things began to devolve quickly in January. Students weren’t working. They wouldn’t stop talking. They were defiant and disrespectful. It felt like the whole vibe of the class changed. I didn’t enjoy them and they did not enjoy my co-teacher or myself. It was awful.

It really bothered me for a while. It had been years since I’d struggled with this level of misbehavior on a daily basis. It was upsetting. It bothered me at home. It bothered me over the weekend. I vented to my teammates about it. I knew we couldn’t make it six more months like that. Something had to give.

Something did. The difference in my class over the past few weeks has been dramatic. It is a different vibe. I got my class back. It wasn’t easy to change the tone of the class, and I know I’m going to have to be extra vigilant until the end of the year.

Contact home.

I had been bad about telling students I would contact home if they didn’t correct their behavior and then letting it go. My teammates had been doing the same as well. We decided to change our behavior. We created a shared behavior doc. Whenever a student was distracting or behaving inappropriately we would document it with the date. After a couple of days we all called the parents of every student on that list and let them know the issues we’d been having. We framed it as a courtesy call. We let the parent know that the next step would be an office referral, but we wanted to give the students another chance.

Write office referrals.

My classroom management has always been a source of pride for me. I take a lot of pride in the relationships I’ve built with my students. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve written students up this year. I don’t like to do it. And I kept not writing students up whose behavior definitely merited an office referral. Then, my assistant principal came and spoke to my class one day. As she was leaving she told me I needed to start writing them up. She said it would only take one or two to get the message across. I reluctantly took her advice and she was correct. Their behavior changed once they realized there were going to be consequences for their behavior.

Contacting home and writing office referrals was a great start and quickly helped me regain some control of my class. My next post will highlight some other helpful tips that helped me get my class back on track.