21 July 2009

Dealing with disruptive students

Dealing with disruptive students can be difficult. If you fail to do it though, these little devils can make your life hell. I have met more than a few colleagues who have experienced sleepless nights because of a class where they felt like they lost control. I personally have walked out of a classroom determined never to teach again. It can take a lot of inner-strength to face students once more after you have had a bad experience with them.

It is easy to just blame the teacher for not having the skill to keep students in check. This definitely seems to be the attitude in Thailand with teachers afraid to admit they are having problems in case it reflects badly on them. This is a real shame because support and exchange of ideas could work wonders to bring these classes back under control. Instead there seems to be classrooms where good students can’t learn because of disruptive students and teachers hide the fact so as not to rock the boat,

I know for a fact that it is not always the teacher’s fault, because I was once one of these disruptive students. I did not want to be in school and even if one of those wonderful teachers like the ones you see in movies (I’m thinking Dead Poets Society here) walked into the room then there would be no way that I wanted to listen. Always blaming the teacher is treating the student like a purely passive variable in the equation; I don’t believe this is the case.

It is not always the disruptive student’s fault either. Why should they be expected to sit through boring classes with teachers who don’t seem to care enough about them to keep them interested? I wouldn’t put up with that either.

The truth is that the problem is caused by a mixture of unique factors and no one answer fits all cases. Sometimes students are disruptive because they don’t want to be in school or because they have serious traumatic event occurring in their life. Other times they are disruptive because the lesson is boring, or that they are tired, or because a teacher told them off for not doing their homework.

It does become easier to control classes as experience in teaching grows. I do believe though, that more should be done to bring the problem out into the open and not to create a blame culture. This problem can drive good teachers out of the profession, and create a learning environment which fails students.

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