Music Teacher Tip: How To Deal With An Unruly Class
Being a music instructor offers wonderful moments of satisfying serenity. When one of your students shows particular aptitude or another one overcomes huge challenges, these are the times when you know that you’re fulfilling your calling and giving back a priceless gift to the next generation. However, there are also other times when you question your sanity and wonder what in the world possessed you to choose a profession that underrates your contribution and leaves you subjected to a group of unruly kids.
Don’t despair. There are actually a number of teaching resources available that can help you maintain positive authority in your classroom. Although music teachers face a slightly heightened challenge in that students have access to very effective, loud, noise-makers, you can still apply many of the methods that work well for academic instructors. The key is to keep your calm. You know that when your class gets out-of-hand it’s difficult for anyone to learn, but by following some simple strategies, you can make sure that your class stays on target.
First Step—Establish Complete Silence
This will be difficult, and it takes some time. You can calmly, repeated ask your students to take their seats, place their instruments in their cases, and stop talking; and continue to ask until they comply. Or, you may need to circle the room, coaxing, prodding, and correcting individual students until everyone is seated and quiet.
You should allow at least five minutes of silence to reign before you start step two.
2nd Step—Structured Learning
Now pick a simple task like having the students line up to get their instruments. Establishing a common routine, such as the manner in which you want each class to begin, provides the structural basis for every other group activity. However, it’s important to use as few words as possible; you need to show your students exactly how to perform the activity. Go to the area, prepare your instrument and then move to your chair quietly and take up a rest position.
If your classroom size is constrained, you may want to arrange for certain sections to take turns. Perhaps choose strings and percussion first, for tuning purposes, and then allow horns and woodwind instrument players to prepare their instruments and take their seats. Tailor your activity to your specific needs.
A routine needs to be established before class can resume normal lessons. So after you’ve demonstrated the drill, have the students perform it. If any of them talk or do anything other than what you demonstrated, have them all stop what they’re doing, return to their seats, and then try again. Keep finding flaws until the entire group has done it perfectly.
After a few tries, your kids will be preparing their instruments for class in an orderly manner, but you should insist on this performance every day for at least a week. Don’t explain your actions. Part of the reason why this strategy works is due to the fact that your students come to the realization on their own, which is a powerful reinforcement. If any student breaks the rules, calmly have every student return his or her instrument to the case and perform the drill again.
Eventually, you may feel that your class is trending towards chaos again, but in those situations, rather than become agitated, you should slow everything down. A great technique involves whispering. Rather than speak in a normal sound, whisper your instructions in a calming and deliberate manner until your students get the message. Pick a simple task and don’t do anything else until every student has complied. Once all of your students are seated and you have their attention:
- Calmly ask students to perform one task
- Wait until every student has complied
- Pause for too long. It causes extreme focus on the speaker (you).
You can gain control of your unruly class by keeping your cool and establishing your authority through patience. Getting frustrated, yelling, and other intimidation tactics will only cause you stress and require constant use. Music should be an expansive, fun environment where kids can learn to express themselves through art, and it can be when everyone participates conscientiously and treats your authority with respect.