Student Teachers what to do when You’ve Lost Control of your Classroom

I’ll admit that I didn’t really learn much at all in my education classes at college. The truth is, teaching itself is a learning experience, and most things will be learned through trial and error. Even the most seasoned teachers lose control of their classroom from time to time, so don’t panic if it happens to you as a student teacher. Just take these steps:

FIRST STEP: GET THEIR ATTENTION
Ring a bell, turn out the lights, raise your hand until all the other students have… Use whatever “signal” their teacher normally uses to get their attention.

SECOND STEP: BE STERN
You may have become more of a “buddy” with the students over the past few weeks than an authority to them, and they probably enjoy a break from their regular teacher. They may feel like they have more leniency with you than their teacher. Tell them in your sternest (not loudest) voice to sit down and listen. Say something to the effect of, “When I am teaching, I expect you to treat me like you treat Mr./Mrs. when he/she is teaching. I expect you to follow the rules you were taught at the beginning of the year, and if you break the rules, you will have consequences. Because you chose to break the following rules: , these are your consequences: .” Use your own judgment whether you should punish the class as a whole or as individuals. If you are not certain who was doing what, the whole class should receive some type of punishment, whether it’s a privilege taken away (recess, game time, etc.), or just having them sit still and quiet for 5 minutes (add a minute for every time someone talks during the quiet time). Usually, most of the kids in the class will watch everyone else and make sure they are all being quiet so they don’t get into further trouble. Now is the time to make them realize that you mean business, and you are not here to be their buddy. Although it is so tempting to try to befriend the students, you will lose your authority when you do so. Students will love and respect you when you set boundaries and stick to them, and at the same time show trust and respect to the students.

THIRD STEP: TALK TO YOUR MENTOR TEACHER
If your mentor teacher was just stepping back to see how you would handle the situation, that’s probably ok because these situations will happen when you go into teaching, and you’ll need to be prepared. However, if your mentor teacher does not offer any advice, speak up for you, or have a talk with his/her students about the problem, you might consider going to your professor for advice. Student teaching is not supposed to be a “break” for the mentor teacher, where he/she leaves you to fend for yourself in the classroom. The mentor teacher should be guiding you every step of the way, leaving room for you to make mistakes, but offering help when you need it. Ideally, the mentor teacher should give you small teaching tasks in the beginning and help you work up to a full day of teaching over a period of time. If he/she is just having you run errands all the time and not getting you involved in the classroom, talk to your professor.

IN THE FUTURE…
When you go home or back to campus that day and have had a break, brainstorm some “filler activities” for the future. A lot of times, students get out of control when they are bored or done with their work. The busier they are kept, the less likely they will act out. I always had a stack of brain-teasers for my students to work on individually when they finished their other work. It kept them quiet and busy until the rest of the class finished. You could also incorporate different centers for the students to go to throughout the day as they finish their work. Don’t let them be idle, or you are asking for trouble!

THERE’S A LIGHT AT THE END OF THIS TUNNEL
Just remember that this is not YOUR class, and this stage will not last forever. Take the time to work on establishing what rules, consequences, and procedures you will put into action in YOUR future classroom. I can promise you that it is much easier to handle students when you are the one that put the rules into effect from the beginning, as long as you are consistent with them. Don’t get discouraged with student teaching. It’s not easy to take on someone else’s students, rules, schedule, and expectations. Things will be much different when you have your own class!