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Handling Disruptive Students

by John McIntosh

All behaviors that interfere with teaching and learning in the classroom can be considered to be disruptive. Disruptive behavior can be repeated small actions or a single major event. Here are some strategies for minimizing and coping with behavior that may make instructors feel uneasy, annoyed, or threatened:

Know your own students.

Get to know your students’ names as quickly as possible—by the end of the first or second week of class. Getting to know your students quickly not only decreases the likelihood of disruption by reducing anonymity, but often students are appreciative that you have taken the time to do so. You can get to know students’ name by using a roster (if you have a very big class) or by having an “ice–breaker” activity in the first class. You can ask your students to complete an index card with their name, e-mail address, their interest in the class, or have them pair up, tell each other their names, major, interest in this class and then have one student of the pair introduce the other to the class. And don’t forget to ask that students with special needs talk to you individually after the first class.

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