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This summer is the first time I am tutoring a class of middle-school students (about 20). I have done individual tutorings before, but was not formally trained as a teacher. So, for the first time, I am learning how to manage a class, and more importantly, where my own boundaries are.

What grates on my nerve most is when a student screams out loud in the middle of the class that he or she does not understand something. The material is not too difficult. Rather, it is brand new and the students are not familiar with it. I explain that it is okay if they don't get it; just watch and follow what I do. But two seconds later, some one is going to scream out load again.

Correct me if I am wrong. Such student expects that he or she going to get it right away, and refuses to do the hard work. Or, the student is just looking for an excuse to be disruptive. Now, this tutoring center allows me to send out students for discipline issues. My question is how to kick out someone and still protect myself from unfair accusations. You know what the student is going to say next, "I don't understand something and you just send me out ...."

One idea is to tell the students to be specific about what they don't understand. If they cannot give me a coherent question, then they have to hold their judgments and follow what I do. For example, 1 and 2 are coherent questions, but 3 is not.

  1. How do you go from line 5 to line 6?
  2. Why are you interested in this value?
  3. What the hell is this? (Yes, I got this before.)

Now, what should I do if someone is trying to argue with me about what is a coherent question? Clearly, a student like that has to go, but I'd like to know how to protect myself also.

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    $\begingroup$ Can't say as I'm thrilled by the "just watch and follow what I do" response. Students really should be thinking and understanding a presentation. Clarifying questions is part of the job and why live classes exist. (Of course, if someone is disruptive or can't get basic things after multiple cycles that's reason to table it outside of class.) $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Aug 16 '17 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ You need to have clear rules with consequences spelled out to students at the beginning of the class. Among the consequences should be asking students to leave. You can ask someone above you to help "draft" these rules and consequences. Just remember if you don't deal with this you're not being fair to the students that want to learn. $\endgroup$ – Amy B Aug 16 '17 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ "Now, what should I do if someone is trying to argue with me about what is a coherent question? Clearly, a student like that has to go".....To me there is nothing fundamentally wrong with student having a different opinion as to whether or not something is coherent. But if they manner they choose to voice that opinion is disruptive or disrespectful, that is a problem. $\endgroup$ – Michael Aug 26 '17 at 17:08
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When I started teaching I had trouble with classroom management. It is natural, and you will get better as you get more experience. The number one thing you have to do is set your expectations. Even if you're only tutoring one or two students at a time, you have to let them know what your expectations are. After detailing the expectations with your students, let them know the consequences for not meeting those expectations.

For example, I have a few rules in my classroom.

  1. Arrive to class on time.
  2. Be prepared.
  3. Respect your classmates and teacher.
  4. Be responsible for your actions.
  5. No eating, drinking, or phones (out of pocket) in class.

I explain these expectations thoroughly. I would explain that blurting out an answer without raising their hand is violating rule 3 because they are not being respectful to their teacher (blurting out is a pet peeve of mine).

After explaining these expectations, let them know the consequences for not meeting these expectations. My consequences are as follows:

If a student violates one of the rules (such as blurting out) I give them a warning. On their second offense in a week they have to stay after school for detention. At the end of the week we start over and every student gets one warning before having detention for breaking a rule. If you set these expectations and are consistent (this is KEY!), then you will have very few discipline problems. I know that detention may not be at your disposal, but you can alter it to fit your needs.

Many teachers are starting to use positive reinforcement, but this simply does not work for middle and high school students. It also does not model the real world. Students need to learn that their are consequences for their actions.

So, before teaching anything in your next meeting I would go over my expectations (whatever you outline them to be) with your students. You will be glad you did because you will find that once they are being respectful, you will have a lot more time to teach them.

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A student behaves disruptively for the first time:

Jane, in my classroom, if you have a question I expect you to raise your hand. [Smile.] Now if there's something you want to ask about, could you try to explain what it is that I could try to clarify?

The same student repeats the behavior on another day:

Jane, we talked about this on Tuesday, and I made my expectations clear. You need to raise your hand rather than shouting or screaming. I'm going to ask you to leave class and go to the principal's office and talk to her about what just happened. If she's not busy, I think you should be able to get that done in about 10 minutes, so I'm hoping to see you back here by 11:20. I want to help you learn, but if we're going to make that happen you're going to have to stop repeating this behavior.

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If you have the ability to kick them out of class, I would do that. The behavior you are talking about is disrespectful. And disruptive.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would use this as a last resort. Attempting to do everything in your power to handle the situation yourself will gain respect among the other students. Ultimately, sending a student out somewhere is signaling that this is a problem you are not capable of solving. $\endgroup$ – Michael Aug 26 '17 at 17:09
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Well, first of all I hope you exaggerate and you don't really have people screaming at you all the time. If they really scream, that is reason enough to make them leave the class. If they ask in a civilized manner, you might have a chance to deal with it. For that, I have two suggestions:

  1. Plan specific times for questions. Communicate to you students that you will first present a topic and after 5-10min you will make a break for questions and discussions. You might even use these breaks to ask questions of your own, to see if they understood what you did so far. It might be hard to tell students "no" at first, but if you stay true to your word and really make the promised breaks at appropriate points, they will most likely learn to wait with questions. Hopefully they will see that doing it this way is more efficient.
  2. Talk to colleagues and superiors about the problem. It might be that some of your students just love to disrupt and you are not the first one to encounter this problem. Especially if you are planning to exclude students from the class, you should have some sort of consent from above first, exactly to avoid a situation like the one you described (the student complaining about you, that you don't want him to learn).
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    $\begingroup$ I kind of doubt that the OP is exaggerating if this is a U.S. middle school. $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Aug 16 '17 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Many American kids really lack discipline. A friend from Italy told me if he acted out like that in school, his father would whip him good with a belt. $\endgroup$ – Andy Tam Sep 21 '17 at 14:43
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Sorry to tell you this, but at this particular moment you seem not to be fit to deal with such a situation just by yourself. This is OK, lots of people have authority issues, especially when starting teaching. Also, the fact that you don't have authority now, does not mean that you can't learn how to get it, but you need to work on it.

I propose you to get help, either from other teachers (from the same school, very important), either from the principal(s).

In case you get the support you ask for, don't be afraid to follow their advise, even if it means that you need to punish a student harder than you would do yourself.
In case you don't get supported, either by fellow teachers, either from the principal(s), get out of there and find another job. It seems hard, but it's the best way to deal with such a situation.

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