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Survival Tips for When a Lesson Goes Wrong

Tagged In:  ITN Mark, lessons, school
05 December 2016

We’ve all been there, been in charge of a lesson that’s just not going to plan at all. The pupils are noisy, and there’s not one listening ear in the room. Even your teaching assistant is struggling to hear you over the constant stream of giggling children.

We’re not saying it happens often, but any teacher who’s been in the profession for longer than a few months will tell you that every now and again you’ll have a lesson that goes wrong. When this happens, it’s important to have a strategy. We’ve put together a list of our top tips for ‘surviving’ a lesson that’s gone wrong so that you can be prepared.

Spot the Warning Signs

Lessons don’t just suddenly go bad; there are usually warning signs. These warning signs vary massively, and can sometimes even be things that have happened before the pupils entering the classroom.

For example, a confrontation between children in the playground can sometimes mean that your pupils will be tense and giddy when they get to class. If you’re aware of this happening, be sure to talk about the event once everyone has arrived. Just something straightforward such as, “I’m aware of what happened in the playground earlier, and I’d just like to make you aware that I won’t tolerate any bad behaviour in this classroom”.

Take a Break

We’re not talking about taking yourself off for a coffee in the staff room (as tempting as that may be), but just sitting at your desk for a few minutes before taking further action can make you feel less flustered. Take a pause and observe your pupils for a minute or so, and you may even find that they calm down naturally. If they don’t, your breather should allow you to stay calm and collected before taking action.

Pick out the Ringleaders

Usually, if a lesson has gone wrong, it’s only one or two pupils in the class that are directly causing the commotion and the others are just following their lead. In this situation, it’s not difficult to notice who these ringleaders are. Once you’ve figured it out, call them over to your desk and explain to them calmly why their behaviour is not tolerable, which will usually do the trick. If not, consider removing them from the classroom for a few minutes, so they have time to calm down, away from their peers.

Learn From What Happened

One of the positives you can take from a disrupted lesson is that you can learn from it. Sit down for ten minutes after school and jot down the answers to the following questions:

  • Why do you think that the lesson went so badly?
  • What did you do to resolve the situation?
  • What do you feel you could have done differently?
  • Are there any repeat offenders in your class that you believe are a constant distraction to the class? What do you think is the best way to move forward with these pupils?
  • Any other thoughts you have on the lesson?

If you take what happened and learn from it, you can use it to improve and grow as a teacher. It’s a good idea to update your professional development plan accordingly if you feel that there are areas you need to improve.

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