‘Psychological Warfare': Teachers Sound Off on Classroom Management

By Tanyon A. Duprey — June 19, 2024 5 min read
Classroom Disruptions
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Teachers are used to dealing with the occasional class clown—but what happens when most of the class requires that level of handling?

Classroom disruptions and poor behavior have been on the rise, many educators say. Teachers have blamed the pandemic technology, parenting, and occasionally inherent qualities of the new generations as reasons for the uptick in insolence in the classroom. A number of solutions have been offered from various levels on how to fix the issue, but for many teachers, no solution seems to have a lasting effect.

EdWeek recently wrote on how a new classroom-management training focuses on anti-bias training and helps teachers work on techniques to better interpret their students’ behavior, all in an effort to send fewer children to the office.

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In response to that piece, many teachers on social media gave their opinions on what they believe are the bigger issues that need to be addressed with classroom behavior. They surfaced systematic issues, as well as broader classroom-management techniques.

The following is a collection of the main themes from those conversations.

Focusing on classroom-management training has benefits

“Teacher candidates should have a classroom-management course during their placement so they can learn and apply in the classroom ... We usually have yearlong placements with our student teachers from Monmouth University. They get paid to sub in our building during the first half of the year, outside of their placement hours. It’s a win-win for them and our school!”

Cathy S.

“In 1975, it wasn’t labeled classroom discipline or management techniques. It was called Senior Seminar ... The purpose was group discussion and problem-solving for issues that arose there before we had charge of our own classrooms. The atmosphere of people returning from all areas and demographic populations with an experienced mentor leader was valuable.”

Barbara B.

“The best classroom-management training I had before starting to work at a middle school was to sub in the high schools. Learning psychological warfare in the trenches.”

Jennie L.

“In many states, a majority of teachers do not come into service with a degree in education. My degree is in English and I’ve been a teacher [for] 20 years. It wasn’t uncommon back then to be certified via alternative certification, particularly for secondary teachers ... Many of the alternative-certification programs now are completely online ... [As a result], we send people into the classroom with no mandated [hands-on] training and wonder why they can’t manage a classroom ... It’s cyclical.”

KaLeah H.

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Students raise their hands during an assembly at Yates Magnet Elementary School in Schenectady, N.Y., on March 28, 2024.
Students raise their hands during an assembly at Yates Magnet Elementary School in Schenectady, N.Y., on March 28, 2024.
Scott Rossi for Education Week

Today’s classroom disruptions are more intense

“Keeping disruptive students in the classroom also prevents education from occurring. The discipline problems [of] today are extreme. Chair-throwing, banging furniture against the wall, attacking other students, attacking teachers, extreme continued screaming, refusing to leave the classroom when going to an activity and refusing to enter the classroom when returning … these are a few of the extreme behaviors teachers face today, and behavior charts are not the solution.”

Trachele S.

“They really think that all those trainings really fix today’s behavior problems in the classroom. All of that sounds really good in theory, until you actually use it day, after day, after day, and realize you aren’t getting anywhere because these kids have serious issues, [that the school] expects a classroom teacher to handle and fix, [it’s] so unfair and just wrong.”

Marycarmen P.

“You can’t classroom manage your way out of poor parenting and severe behavioral issues relating to special needs. It’s ridiculous. And schools have left teachers with very little in the way of consequences and rewards.”

Julie A.

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Inexperienced teachers often face rowdy classrooms

“Elephant in the room: Newer teachers are more likely to be assigned to the most difficult classes to manage.”

Aaron R.

“The master’s program I went through focused almost entirely on education theory and how to write lesson plans. Classroom management was rarely discussed. The issue is many new teachers are sent to challenging schools where they are set up to fail. If the school is in chaos, you’ll struggle even if you have tremendous classroom management skills.”

David O.

“I was a para, and as a result of [a] teacher shortage, I was thrown from class to class as a substitute. [I had] never been in a class by myself and [I] wasn’t ready. To the kids that’s like blood in the water. I eventually gained control, but [only] after exploding and nearly losing my job. Sending them to the office does no good.”

Brandon H.

What is the parental role in taking responsibility for student behavior?

“We were trained on classroom management. But that was back when parents took more responsibility in disciplining and taking care of their kids. The parents have not been held responsible.”

Rachael H.

“This is sad. We have come so far down the wrong road on this topic. It is [the] parental responsibility to teach skills at home FIRST! Public school teachers should NOT have to participate in this type of training, when we are not responsible for the students each district allows to attend.”

Angie P.

“How about the parents ‘parent,’ so we don’t have behavioral issues and we can actually teach!”

Lori C.

“How about kids are disciplined at home, taught some respect, and are accountable for their behavior!”

Kiki V.

“It’s incredibly difficult to classroom-manage your way out of something that poor parenting has firmly established years earlier.”

Anthony F.

Administrators need to support teachers on behavior

“Veteran teachers know that there are few, if any, consequences for disruptive students. They know that sending those kids to the office is a whole rigamarole that results in loss of time and even more disruption. Teachers are usually completely on their own.”

Kerry M.

“While teachers (both veterans and new) would benefit from classroom management techniques, admin would also do well to do more in way of discipline. I’ve been lucky enough this year to have strong admin, and it’s made a huge difference.”

Amy H.

“Seasoned teachers know nothing’s going to happen anyway.”

Brenda T.

“Experienced teachers may be better at classroom management, but those are skills born from necessity and rarely ideal. Beginning teachers still think that administrators will help them if they refer kids; experienced teachers know that referrals do little and can actually count negatively in their evaluations...”

Sabine M.

“Could it be veteran teachers gave up asking for help? New teachers think they will get help.”

Linney L.

“The older teachers know that sending them to the office does nothing.”

Jennifer M.

“It’s pointless sending them to the office because they’ll just send them right back.”

Calrensen R.

“In the high school I taught in for 25 years, it was common knowledge amongst the students and staff that if a student was sent to the office, in most cases they were given a piece of licorice by the principal and sent back to the classroom.”

Gary L.

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