These 10 simple techniques can help you turn an unruly class into a productive one.

We teach because we love working with students. We’re dedicated to helping students gain knowledge and develop their intelligence. However, our efforts to consistently deliver high-quality instruction are undercut when we can’t maintain a productive learning environment. Lack of training, anxiety, and inexperience cause many new teachers to feel overwhelmed when a group of rambunctious students doesn’t cooperate. Even high-quality instruction by veteran teachers is rendered ineffective when students are disrupted, distracted, or feel threatened by their peers.

When the classroom feels like a three-ring circus, many of us, including myself, instinctually revert to draconian classroom management tactics. We become ringmasters, monopolizing the spotlight in front of the classroom while forcing students to repeatedly perform some routine or face our disciplinary whip. We sacrifice interactive learning and student collaboration in favor of the pacifying effects of worksheets and teacher-centered instruction. Unfortunately, this ringmaster approach undercuts student engagement and exacerbates power struggles between students and teachers. Students eventually identify defiant behavior and apathy toward academics as a means of student empowerment.

Effective teaching and learning can take place only in a harmonious learning environment. Instead of a three-ring circus, imagine a classroom that resembles a symphony of learners rehearsing for a show. This teacher-as-conductor approach replaces the coercion and chaos of the circus-like classroom with the coordination and collaboration of a symphony orchestra. The teacher composes engaging lessons and uses a baton to conduct students with different strengths to work together. Students are personally motivated because they see explicit connections between the knowledge and skills they’re learning and their future goals.

Instead of a three-ring circus, imagine a classroom that resembles a symphony of learners

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