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How To Take Charge Of Your Unruly Class

I didn’t have the best start to teaching. Actually, I would say that I had a bit of a disastrous start to teaching! I was told to be more consistent…

I didn’t have the best start to teaching. Actually, I would say that I had a bit of a disastrous start to teaching!

Here you’ll find behaviour management strategies and techniques to help you prevent and respond to inappropriate behaviours in your class.

I was told to be more consistent and that I was doing fine, but what does that even mean… be more consistent?

Many new teachers experience a similar beginning, and often they’re not provided with any support or actionable advice to help them.

One teacher shared this with me,

“These kids were operating at the edge of what was humanly bearable and brought it all into the classroom. It was hell. I went to admin to get advice and it was as if I had hit a brick wall….. I was confused and wondered whether I should be able to cope without assistance after I had taught for a year, I started to feel inadequate and stressed. When I made another attempt to ask for help I was told to be more consistent with my behavior management.”

Unfortunately, many new teachers go into survival mode and don’t end up sticking with teaching in the long run. Teaching shouldn’t just be about survival, it should be about thriving!

I’m going to share my top behaviour management strategies to help you take charge of your unruly class so that you can really begin to enjoy teaching!

I’ve also put this information together in a handy downloadable PDF so that you have easy access to it. Fill in your details below so that I can email this to you.

You’re not their friend

Yes, you heard me……you are not your students’ friend. You are their teacher and the leader of the room. You are responsible for all of them and creating an environment where they are able to learn and be safe. If you’ve got kids running across desks, yelling, swearing and generally making everyone in the room miserable, then you need to take charge and sort the situation out.

This does not mean that you can’t have mutual respect and a caring classroom.

The first few weeks in the classroom (and for the remainder of the year) requires the teacher to be proactive (and not reactive). Proactive teachers use this time to establish the rules and routines (or rights and responsibilities), to work out what their students may already know, create a safe learning environment and set up how the rest of the year will go.

Being a reactive teacher means that you don’t really pay attention to the points mentioned above, you just get on with the school year and deal with issues and problems when they arise.

From my experience proactive teachers are not trying to make friends with their students, they’re trying to build reciprocal relationships that are based on trust and safety to ensure the year’s journey is a smooth one. This doesn’t mean that they’re cold and unnatural, but rather they share some of their personal qualities: being warm, pleasant, approachable and tolerant.

Reactive teachers like to be friends with their students and share many good personal qualities as well, but they don’t set limits or have a consistency with handling inappropriate behavior. In the long run, reactive teachers will have more off-task behaviors, which results in less time of students being engaged.

You need to change

I’m not saying there’s one best way to help manage your class, but if you’re reading this then there’s a fair chance that what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

Maybe you’re a reactive teacher, you like to keep things casual and just go with the flow. However, if you’re experiencing behavioral issues in your class and feel like you’re spending much of your time dealing with discipline, then you do need to change.

It’s never too late to begin establishing rules and routines. You might be part way through your year, but the sooner you can make a change the better the remainder of the year will be.

If you’re not sure how to establish your routines or what to do next to make a change, then the following questions may assist you.

The questions are for you to answer a ‘yes’ or ‘no’; some you may be able to answer ‘yes’ to straight away, so quickly move on. Others may require you to go and make changes in your class in order to be able to tick it off. For those questions, take some notes of what you need to do to be able to answer ‘yes’.

Action list to make a change

Here you’ll find behaviour management strategies and techniques to help you prevent and respond to inappropriate behaviours.

  1. Do you know all of your students’ names, both first and last names?
  2. Do you use your students’ names when interacting with them?
  3. Do you take your time to get to know your students?
  4. Are you tolerant, warm, pleasant and approachable with all students in your class?
  5. Do you have a set of classroom rules (usually less is best, no more than 5)? Are they written positively?
  6. Do you set limits and apply them fairly and consistently?
  7. When there is misbehavior do you focus on the behavior and not the student?
  8. Do you have different techniques in place to gain the attention of your class?
  9. Do you gain the full attention of the class before you give instructions?
  10. Do you give clear and easy to follow directions?
  11. Do you check that students are following your directions?
  12. Do you encourage your students?
  13. Do you have a procedure in place for students moving around the room and school?
  14. Do you have ideas in place for early finishesr?
  15. Do you have classroom rewards and consequences (if this is appropriate for your situation)?
  16. Do you have your days and weeks fully planned?
  17. Do you vary your lessons to maintain interest?
  18. Do you use low-key responses first to manage misbehavior? E.g. look, pause, comment, and proximity.
  19. Do you analyze misbehaviors to work out the cause?
  20. Do you make your expectations clear to students?

Don’t choose anger

I’ve definitely been there, been so frustrated and anxious about not knowing what to do in response to a child’s behavior, that out of anger I say something like, “ You can’t say that to me, get to the office!”

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done to not choose anger. But, this is definitely something you can get better at with more practice.

To help you overcome responding angrily (or sarcastically) it is a good idea to have a list of all the possible responses you could choose for the misbehavior. Remember your response will also depend on the type of misbehavior.

Below I have some responses that I’ve used for various misbehaviors. You can use these as well, or also add your own.

Behaviour management strategies for responding to misbehaving students

Here you’ll find behaviour management strategies and techniques to help you prevent and respond to inappropriate behaviours.

  1. Before responding angrily take a deep breath and count to 5.
  2. Say the misbehaving student’s name and nothing else.
  3. Move closer to the student.
  4. Pause while speaking.
  5. Ignore the misbehavior.
  6. Focus on a student with a positive behavior, “I really like the way Emma is packing away quietly.”
  7. Use humor to respond.
  8. Remove the object that is distracting the student.
  9. Refer to the classroom rules to identify the misbehavior.
  10. Request student to stop the behavior (use minimal words).
  11. Provide a choice for the student and then follow through (remember don’t do this angrily).
  12. If appropriate provide a consequence.
  13. Don’t argue with the student.
  14. Have an individual behavior plan in place for students with severe misbehaviors.
  15. Have a buddy class where you can send a student that misbehaves. Sometimes the teacher and the students need a break. Have an established routine set up with the buddy teacher.

Ask for help

As the concerned teacher at the start relayed and also what I experienced, sometimes asking for help doesn’t mean that you’ll get help.

Maybe you tried asking your admin team (Principal and Deputy) for help, but they weren’t really interested. Do you have other teachers at your school who are experienced and would be interested in helping? Ask them if they can help mentor you to become better at classroom management as well as provide you with behaviour management strategies that they have successfully used.

Or if you see another teacher struggling or that has a tough class, or a substitute/relief/supply teacher struggling then offer them support.

If there are a number of you in your school struggling, then start a support group. Share what you’ve tried, what’s worked and what hasn’t.

If there is no one in your school to support you then go online. There is a wealth of information and many forums/blogs/Facebook pages where teachers can share their problems and other teachers offer advice and further resources.


“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Confucius)

Are you going to dare to begin and make the changes that you need?

Summing up

I hope I’ve given you some more ideas to consider when taking charge of your class so that you can really begin to enjoy your teaching journey.

I also believe that as a new teacher, you DESERVE to have teacher SUPPORT so that you feel confident and prepared to deal with all of the demands of BEING a teacher.

Being a new teacher is not easy, but it is possible to manage your time better, implement engaging activities and get on top of your classroom management…..with the right kind of support!

I’m very pleased to announce a new program that is designed specifically to support new teachers. The New Teacher Support Program is a unique website portal where you will find links to specially picked sets of resources designed to help you navigate being a new teacher. The program is stocked with teaching resources, templates, videos and planning documents.

Click here to get started with support.

Here you’ll find behaviour management strategies and techniques to help you prevent and respond to inappropriate behaviours in your class.

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1 Comment

  1. Dr Linda Hamilton

    I like that you also provide strategies, it would be useful to provide an example of when these are best used (as some strategies work better for some behaviours than others).

    One educational researcher (I think it was Jones) looked at the differences between the most amazing teachers, and the teachers who were overwhelmed. He observed lots of teachers (sorry, I can’t remember how many, but from memory it was over 100) and the single biggest area where they differed was that remarkable teachers used more preventative measures than struggling teachers. I think we can always find a new one to add to our teacher toolkit, and to be reminded of ones we already know every now and again.

    Also, you’re action list is great, knowing our students is so important.

    Thank you for sharing Melinda.


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