What are new teachers worried about?

When we’ve asked our teachers, they almost always say behaviour management. It’s completely understandable, so whether you’re new to teaching or just want to pick up some extra tools for the classroom, we’ve put together some tips that are tried and tested by our teachers.


ESL teacher talking to her learnersFollow a template

You might want to change this around to suit your classroom dynamic, but as a list of skeleton steps, we’ve found it’s way more effective to lead with a non-verbal cue instead of going straight to discipline. This could be eye contact with a student causing low level disruption, tapping their desk as you walk by or anything similar. This avoids embarrassing the student and keeps overall classroom disruption to a minimum. If you’re still not getting the desired results, use a minimal cue, like saying their name to gain their attention. More often than not, they don’t even know they’ve been spotted and just need something to snap them back to reality.

This isn’t just something our teachers have found effective, it’s backed up by hundreds of studies and you’ll see why when you give it a go. You can add your own steps as you see fit, if the disruption persists then many teachers tackle it in different ways. I prefer to send the student outside and just have a chat with them outside the classroom and see why they’re behaving in this way – they may just be low on sleep or having problems with their friend group. Either way, try and avoid whole class punishments as they often create a riot (and that’s only a mild exaggeration).



Learn names ASAP!

One of the most effective tools for behaviour management is the use of the student’s names. Not only does this let the students know that you have taken the time to get to know them, but it also lends itself to using those minimal queues we talked about earlier. Taking the time to do this simple task will create a culture of mutual respect in the classroom, and you’ll find students are more likely to respond to your instructions. If you’re lucky, you’ll even have one kid that enjoys your lessons so much that they start to shush the other students – these ones are gems.



Teacher at the blackboard in Thailand Never engage in tug-of-war (or raise your voice)

Although this rule is figurative, you can take it literally, too. But seriously, if you ever get into a back and forth argument with the student, they will ALWAYS win. It’s what kids, especially teenagers, do best. It also consumes too much class time and undermines your authority in front of the class. If a situation arises where a student is arguing with you over a detention, a task or anything else, then explain to them you’ll be happy to discuss it after the lesson. If their interjections continue, see if a member of staff that can take them out of your classroom until they’ve calmed down.

A similar rule applies for raising your voice. Our teachers find it’s more effective to change your tone than your volume. A firm tone when a student is persistently being disruptive, or if someone has been rude to another student, or whatever else, can be really effective, especially with maintained eye contact and when you’re in control of your emotions. Once you’ve raised your voice you’ve backed yourself into a corner and there’s nowhere else to take it, you’re already at your maximum. Try and remain calm in all situations, even if you feel like you’re losing the class. If that happens, wait for silence before continuing. When you’ve got silence, start talking in a soft quiet voice that forces the students to listen closely – don’t let the disruption dictate your lesson.


Teacher and students in a classroomUse your humour

Even if you think you’re not funny, which is a shame, try and make some situations in your class light-hearted. Is there a student that keeps talking across the room? Ask them with exaggerated politeness if they can possibly wait till break to continue their conversation, then give an eye roll and a smile. You don’t want students to think they’ve gotten away with something, or that you’re not confident enough to bring them up on it; however, you also don’t want your classroom to become unwelcoming and cold. Using humour in these situations helps maintain relationships with your students, and you can still ask them to stay behind for a minute to explain why it is disruptive for them to be talking across the class. Bonus points if you can get them to tell you why it’s disruptive.


Teacher helping her learners You’re not their friend but you can be friendly

We already know you’re an exciting and engaging person – you’ve decided to move across the world and teach abroad. Show the class this side of you! Of course, it’s important to maintain boundaries but you can still share what you choose to with your students. This might mean talking about the trip you took at the weekend to a city where one of your students is form. This creates the image that you’re relatable and interesting, and the students will want you to show you the respect that you show them.

Similarly, if you send a student outside for being disruptive, try and be empathetic when talking with them. Ask them why they’re behaving this way rather than accusing them, and try to separate the behaviour from the child. Remember, we’re all human and we all have off days!


Scared yet?


We really don’t mean to worry you. In fact, in TEFL classes you’ll probably just have to tackle some low level disruption and my classes have always been very respectful. As we all know though, it’s better to be prepared for anything and everything.


If you’re still feeling a little nervous, check out some of the videos from our teachers on our YouTube and have a read of some more blogs, you’ll see that teachers are always more nervous than they need to be. Remember, you’re the boss and you’re there to facilitate their learning and help them grow. There will be good and bad days, but the good always outweigh the bad.


Please share any of your behaviour management tips below, or let us know if any of these have worked for you!



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About the author

laura alexander