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How to deal with disruptive students

31st January 2018

One of the biggest issues with disruptive students is that they take up your precious time in the classroom, which may leave your other students disadvantaged. So how do you deal with disruptive students? 

You should always have a plan or certain strategies that you can go back to. The key is to remain flexible, because a strategy that works for one student, might not work for another. Consider:


Prevention is always the best course of action to deal with disruptive students. Set the tone on the first day of school as otherwise bad habits can snowball. When you take on a new class, students will naturally try to test you, so you need to establish firm boundaries quickly.

It is also essential to start building a rapport with your students straight away. This isn’t an easy task when you also have to be authoritative and disciplinary, but if they trust and respect you, students won’t want to displease you.

Empower the student to take ownership

Student ownership encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning and education. Help them to create their own goals and then reward them for achieving these goals. 

Disruptive behaviour can often be caused by boredom and by giving students responsibilities and jobs to do you can distract them and give them the self-confidence and incentive to want to behave well.

Awarding shield school badges with privileges such as ‘class monitor’, ‘prefect’, ‘school committee’ ‘captain’ or ‘ambassador’ will automatically give the student responsibility and they will have a sense of pride in demonstrating this role and in doing so, set a good example. 

Star shaped school badges can be an ideal reward for good behaviour and meeting any goals students have been set.

School lanyards will have the same impact. Perhaps invite a potentially disruptive student to take part in first aid training and award them with a first aid lanyard.

Try to manage your emotions

However hard it might be, try to contain your emotions around disruptive students, who may just be looking for a reaction from you. When you shout you have lost control, so a calm voice will diffuse the situation faster. Not only that but if you lose control, the situation can quickly escalate.

Explain why

You need to educate a disruptive student on how their behaviour impacts the other students in the classroom, plus their friends and family.  


It is vital to listen to what the disruptive student has to say, as there is often a reason for their disruptive behaviour. 

Perhaps the student is being bullied and is reacting against it? Bullies can be very clever in hiding their actions and things can be whispered and happen behind your back. Online bullying is also unfortunately becoming more and more common.

Perhaps the disruptive behaviour is a cry for help and the student is going through a bad time at home? Listening will give you the bigger picture.

Talk privately to the student

If you punish a student in front of the rest of the class it will embarrass them. Talk to the student privately, so they are also more likely to listen to what you are saying.

Talk to their parents

If a student is disruptive at school, it is likely that they are misbehaving at home too and so their parents will not be surprised. It is important that you work together with the student’s parents so that the student has continuity and support at home too. 

Create a plan of action

A plan of action can be written together between teacher, student and parents. The plan needs to include incentives for good behaviour and consequences for bad behaviour. You can write it up like a contract and all sign it for added focus. The action plan might also include outside help if necessary, for example involving a counsellor.

Involve the headteacher

If the disruption continues and you feel that it might get out of hand in the future, it is important to involve your school management team and the headteacher.

Continue the support

Don’t give up on support when things start improving. Disruptive students need continued help for reinforcement of good behaviour. Tell them that you are proud of them whenever they do something positive, however small.

Provide good feedback to the student’s parents, which will encourage them to keep up the praise in turn.

Finally, remember that it can be an exceptionally tough job to deal with a disruptive student and it takes time. It really is the front-line of teaching and if you feel it getting too much involve your team for backup, support and collective ideas. Ultimately any progress will be hugely rewarding.