Let’s remember that all teachers have had student discipline problems at one time or another. NQTs may have more than experienced teachers because they haven’t learned the ‘tricks of the trade’ yet. Here are some ways to restore discipline in the classroom, without actually chastising the whole class or individual students. There are many ways to discipline students without actually being seen to discipline them.

One of the things a teacher might do that causes student discipline problems is to turn his / her back on the class. I learned to write crab-like on the board so that I never had my back to the class.

1) Don’t raise your voice or shout to restore quiet.

Wait for students to realise that you are not speaking before you continue the lesson.

When you first walk into a classroom, greet the class and make sure that they greet you before proceeding further, and give students time to put their books away and take out the materials necessary for your lesson. While they are doing this write the objectives for the lesson on the board. Tap the board when you think students are ready to begin and ask for an explanation of the objectives. Don’t raise your voice to get your students’ attention. Tell students that these objectives will be revisited at the end of the lesson and at the end of it, ask if the objectives were achieved. If they weren’t make a note and begin your next lesson by addressing the objective(s) that weren’t addressed.

Remember that students imitate the teacher’s voice level. Concentrate on keeping your voice at a normal speaking level, so that students don’t become loud.

2) One thing that can cause disruption is an ill-prepared teacher and lesson plan.

Always be well-prepared and know the material you are going to use in each lesson. While more experienced teachers know their material back-to-front, a newly qualified teacher might, on occasion, decide to wing it. This is a recipe for disaster!

No one knows everything, and a newly qualified teacher should do research into any topic that is new to her. Check with more experienced teachers to find out if you have a firm grasp of a concept that is new to you.

3) Make sure that what you are teaching will engage students.

Plan different activities for the lesson, and over-plan if you think you will need to change an activity for one of your classes. That way, if you feel there is something wrong with your plan, you can change it immediately. Don’t follow a lesson plan blindly if students are bored or unruly. All teachers have to be flexible and quick-witted!

4) Use gestures and body language to get your students’ attention.

When they become used to your non-verbal communication and what your gestures mean, you will have to use your voice less, and won’t have to yell to get attention. The students will learn that they need to look at you at times when you are instructing them, as you won’t simply use your voice to communicate what you intend to express.

5) Don’t let students get restless.

If you realise that one or two students are getting restless, and perhaps talking to each other, nip this in the bud by asking a question such as “You look as though you want to ask a question., please do.”

If there are conflicts in class and you think they can better be addressed outside the classroom, ask to see the students concerned during the next break. Allow students to explain what was wrong and offer advice. In such a situation you are acting as mediator, and so should use neutral language if a resolution is to be found.

Newly qualified teachers can learn best from their own mistakes, but forewarned is, as they say, fore-armed. Hopefully these tips will help you to overcome any student discipline problems you face in your first year.

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