When managing your class during instruction, there will often be times when you are faced with the dilemma of either discontinuing instruction because student behavior has begun to break down, or fighting through the storm to ensure content coverage. The trouble is discerning when it’s the appropriate time for each path.
If this were an easy problem, we’d all be doing it perfectly. But, in education, the solution changes with the ability and capacity of the class, and is only brought into focus through the personality and wisdom of the educator.
So, here are two steps and four simple focusing questions to ask in these moments:
STEP ONE: Non-verbal Intervention
1) Have I tried non-verbal redirects, including (but not limited to) proximity, change of volume, lights, readers, touch, pointing, hand signs, etc.?
If the answer is yes to the first question – move on to step two:
STEP TWO: Assess the environment
2) Is the class engaged?
3) Can I be heard clearly?
4) Can I continue “my” flow with the lesson?
If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, it may be time to rethink the “power through it” strategy. If the answer is "no", the teaching is no longer effective and learning is in jeopardy. From here, the teacher has only three options: lose control, try a quick redirect, or discipline the problem. Assuming most of us want to avoid losing control of the class, you have now reached the point of redirect (minor discipline or structured warning) or full-on discipline.
I like to say it this way, “When teaching stops, discipline starts.” A good teacher should be able to manage with non-verbals and quick redirects through the majority of the day. But, if a student or students have broken down the lesson and teaching cannot continue, it is no longer time for a string of warnings or reminders, it’s time to discipline the source and protect the academic needs of the room.
The other side to the same quote ("When teaching stops, discipline starts") is engagement. If your teaching (and planning) is not engaging, students will tune it out. When teaching has been tuned out, teaching has stopped and discipline will undoubtedly begin.