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Proactively Meeting Classroom Challenges

As we all know, hindsight is 20/20. Many instructors reach week 10 of the semester overwhelmed with perpetually late or disruptive students affecting their class and wish they had made policies and expectations clearer at the beginning.

To that end, here’s an early reminder and some tips on setting up class guidelines and policies for the most common challenges before typical problems start.

Communicate expectations about both the course work and professional behavior early on so that students know what’s acceptable and what’s not. This can include behavior such as talking or texting in class, coming late to class, and late assignments. It may feel uncomfortable to state these policies upfront, but it’s simply clarifying the rules of the game. Most students prefer to know what is expected, boundaries and guidelines, before getting too far into the semester.

Remember that you’re still setting the tone and culture for the class. It’s not too late to introduce opening rituals that encourage on-time arrival such as warm-up activities or quizzes, where students clearly see that they’re missing out if they arrive late.

Make sure you and your students have read over policies such as those on conduct, lateness, and grading. Some instructors even create policies with the students and/or have them sign contracts acknowledging that they’ve read and agree to them; others give quizzes on the syllabus content.

When someone is disruptive or late, address it right away—the first time, if possible. Without early acknowledgement of the behavior as a problem, you’re sending the message that it’s acceptable, which will only escalate. If you arrive late, apologize and correct for the future.

Bear in mind that it’s always easier to start out tough and soften up than to try to implement tougher standards once the class is out of hand. Remember that grade school teacher you had whom you feared on the first day and loved by the end of the year? Take a page from his or her playbook.

Resources:

Responding to Latecomers

Handling Late Assignments

Handling Behavioral Issues


Classroom Management Expert Delaney Kirk getting the behavior you want
Dr Kirk on Five Tips to Help You Control Your Classroom
More information on the “syllabus quiz