While scrolling my Facebook newsfeed last week, I came across a video posted by MediaTakeOut of an out of control classroom.  One of the students was recording the video.  There were other students in the classroom who were being extremely disrespectful to the teacher.  Some of the students were yelling and screaming at the teacher.  They were throwing things like paper and pencils at her.

This teacher packed up all of her belongings and left the class, but not before one of the students tossed what seemed to be a rather heavy back pack at her as she turned the corner of the exit door.  According to the video, the teacher quit that day.  I cannot say that it true or false.  However, as a mentor who works with teens, I was disturbed by how out of control this class was.

We have all seen movies before about unruly kids in a classroom. This made the drama in the movies so real.  I have been in classrooms with teens who the teacher says are very disrespectful on a daily basis, but did not experience the disrespect I was warned of.

So, I would like to share a few tips on how I maintain control in a classroom and avoid situations like this.

  1. Set clear expectations from the very beginning.   As soon as you meet your class/group you must begin to lay down the ground rules.  They must know who is in control from the start.  This is especially important when working with at risk youth, who may find it entertaining to challenge authorities. It’s just as important for them to know what you will and will not tolerate as it in for them to know your name.  When you introduce myself, also let them know what the agenda is, how you plan on going about accomplishing the agenda and what your expect of them in return. It’s ok to set the expectations high at first, then ease up as you have established a clear foundation of respect.
  2. Address small problems before they become big.  Every now and then, you will meet a student who steps one foot over the boundary line you have set.  This is done to see just how much they can actually get away with.  If you let them get away with a little, they will do a lot more.  This also gives other students a silent permission to do the same.  So, before things get out of hand, stand firm in your expectations.  You must let them know that you are in control at all times.  Every problem may not deserve a punishment, but they certainly have to be addressed.
  3. Hold you students accountable for their own actions.  When working with a group of students, it may seem easier to address the entire class when there is an issue.  However, I find it to be more effective if the student(s) who is at the root of the problem is addressed individually and held accountable for their own actions.  If the whole class is made to suffer the consequences of one students actions, not only is it not fair to the ones who are innocent, but the culprit has not learned to be responsible for their own actions.  This could cause the other students to become frustrated and lose respect for you as the authority. Once you start to lose their respect, you also lose the control.
  4. Be firm, but not cruel.   Our students need to know that we care about them even though we have high expectations of them.  If you don’t care about them, why should they care bout or respect you.  It’s a cold hard truth.  Being mean won’t solve a thing. It only creates a bigger gap in communication that could make it almost impossible to earn their respect. Respect is a reciprocal expectation. Those shoe expect to receive it, should be willing to give it as well.
  5. Be confident.  Nothing says, “run over me” more than a lack of confidence.  A lack of confidence is like a green light to disrespect in a classroom, and the students will surely take advantage of any opportunity to challenge what appears to be a weakened authority. You must be confident in your appearance, the way you speak, and how you interact with them as well. Once your students see that you a re not intimidated by them, they will respect you.


Again, these are the tips that help me maintain control when I am working with youth groups/classrooms.  I hope you found these tips to be of help to you as well.  If you would like to reach out to me for further tips or assistance with coping with children in the classroom, shoot me an email to shalita@shalitaheard.com



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