Open to Disruption

Matthew Akins
Contributing Writer
Success Academy Trainer

For anyone who has had to stand up in front of a classroom and teach, we all hope the class goes well. Now and then you end up with one student who feels they need to stand out by being disruptive. Having a disruptive student in the classroom can lead to other students becoming disruptive, the teacher loses the ability to control the group, and the learning process is compromised when students behave in a disruptive manner.

Last year I was teaching a class, and right off the rip, I was faced with a disruptive student. In the beginning, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he would eventually settle down, but he didn’t. As class went on, he became even more disruptive by challenging the information being taught in class, challenged his co-workers and refused to comply with my request to behave more appropriately in class to limit distractions and keep discussions on the topic.

The entire time his manager was in class witnessing his behavior. His manager spoke to him several times during breaks, and even I discussed with him off to the side. Finally, his disruptions become more aggressive, I stopped the class and told the manager he’s out. The manager quickly removed him from the class. That evening I learned that employee was terminated from the company because of his continued disruptive behavior.

No instructor wants to deal with disruptive students, and certainly not have a scene such as kicking someone out of class. Unfortunately, these incidents can and will happen in class. Here are a few things that can help deal with disruptive students.

Perform a mental safety check. You can do this by redirecting your words, actions, and thoughts about the student. Think about what positives you are observing in the present and consider sharing those positives with the student. Next consider self-questioning, if you find yourself responding abrasively, question yourself where it would be the same if it were a different student. If not, think of how you could answer without bias.

When you feel disappointed about what has happened in class, go home and reflect in a journal. Write down the contents without including your emotions. Wait until the next day and review the incident and list ways that you can make the present day better. In class, sometimes it requires you to pause and take a step back. Before answering without care or with too much emotion, say nothing.

Take several moments to think about how you should objectively deal with the situation, and most importantly that you are not allowing for the student’s previous actions to interfere with the steps you are about to take. Finally, step away. Take a moment and ask the student to step outside, stay after class to discuss the happenings of the current or previous day. Provide the student with the opportunity to offer a resolution or an action plan for future steps.

Successfully dealing with disruptive students in the class will be an essential action in building rapport and should be viewed as a stepping-stone of development.

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