At some point in time while teaching online we all will come across some students that can be perceived as mischievous. Depending on the teacher and the kind of behavior that they’re accustomed to it tends to be a moment of frustration on our end. Psychologically speaking, we do not know what is causing this child to misbehave towards us. It can be factors such as lack of attention, mental disorders, or just coming across a child with a very playful personality. There have been times where children move the camera, not answer to me, draw all over the lesson plan without paying attention to the lesson, put their foot in the camera, cry, scream at me, etc. You name it, I’ve had to deal with it. So I think it’s very important to provide educational resources to teachers on how to deal with this kind of behavior and how to make the lesson as efficient as possible when you are challenged with this kind of student.
I used to bartend for about about 5 years in the Miami club scene. If you’ve ever been to Miami, you know it’s a crazy party city and well adults when under the consumption of alcohol tend to act like kids… only much worse because unlike kids, sometimes they do mean harm. So how I look at this is… that these kids are a piece of cake to deal with because I’ve had to deal with intoxicated people. I’ve had to deal with people disrespecting me verbally and physical… I even had one time where one of my regulars got so hammered before he came to the bar. I had to fight him for his keys and ask my manager for permission to take him home so he did not kill himself or anyone on his route home.
I have always been a person that has found herself having issues with authority throughout my whole life whether it was being a kid in school, or even as a rebellious teenager. Maybe it was something born in me or maybe it was just any issues that I was having with myself, but that’s exactly what I mean. We do not know what these kids are going through, I mean no one’s life is cookie cutter easy. And if it was for you then kudos to you. But people are always fighting inner demons and the pressure of pleasing the people around them and society to a point where they find themselves lashing out. So next time you see a child that maybe is just not behaving the best way towards you, try to understand them to give them what they need to learn from you.
Teaching English online is not just an educational job, but this is also a business filled with lots of negotiation. Some kids are very sweet and eager to learn, and others mean business. The key is to not accept defeat and handle this in a different perspective. Call me crazy about creating plans, but I think the most prepared teacher has an “Emergency Plan” for what to do when such a student takes a class with them. I’d like to share with you all my plan followed by some tips and tricks to deal with the student.
The first thing that should come to mind is that each student is very different from one another, so you have to evaluate the things they say, the things they do, and their overall behavior to cause a form of distraction towards them. By distraction, I mean a distraction to them from their distracting behavior… if that made sense. Something to interest them so much that they forget that it’s imperative to bother the teacher.
Another thing one must keep in mind is that there is no such thing as online teaching without patience. I never really understood those teachers that complain consistently about having playful 3-year-olds… like really? They are children. Think about when you were a child? Did you behave perfectly? Did you enjoy being told what to do and when to do it? I have always had an issue with authority so I was not Little Miss Sunshine as a child. Therefore, I am empathetic with children. So here is my step-by-step guide on how to survive a class with a naughty student.
Always be polite and keep your calm with a smile on your face despite the situation.
I know this tends to be hard when we get frustrated, but in the world of online teaching, you are one bad review or complaint away from breaking your reputation. Remember that you are the adult in the situation and that usually in these teaching platforms the classes are recorded, so you will be looked at in a very positive way for being able to keep your cool even while getting annoyed.
Analyze the age and the degree of the misbehavior of the child.
So if the child is 3 years old… you do have to realize that it is in their nature to be playful. If the child is 10 years old, they are old enough to know when they are being disruptive, but young enough to still have that kind of behavior.
I analyze if the student is trying to be rude or if they just want to be entertained and laugh and usually by that I choose which approach I will attack the situation. Yes, I use the word attack, because teaching English online to kids is a strange battlefield.
What to do now with rude behavior?
So in my case, I have 25 minutes to teach the lesson and get out, especially if I do not have back to back classes. If the student is being rude and there is no parent around… I have two approaches depending on the age.
- If they are 10 and older I try to teach the lesson the best way possible without doing anything crazy and just put up with it. Then when I send my report to the student’s parents I politely include what is going on in the lesson. Older students can leave you a bad review if you try to claim authority in the middle of the lesson. It’s not worth getting a bad review over.
- In the case that the student is being rude and he/she is younger than 10. I have a mentor whom she taught me this secret trick that works every SINGLE time. I get a saucepan and bang on it with a wooden mallet and say: “HEY WHERE’S MOM, TELL HER TO COME OVER HERE,” they usually freak out at the idea of telling mom that they are is misbehaving and begin to correct their behavior.
If the parent is in the room and the student is being rude, and for example does not want to repeat what I am saying or do anything… I repeat the instructions with a smile on my face, but VERY LOUD. This way my seriously loud and passive demeanor freaks them out and they usually continue to follow instructions.
What to do now with playful behavior?
IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM.
I have this game I play with one of my most playful students where she LOVES to draw on the screen. So we play the “I Spy” game. We choose a concept that we are learning that day whether it’s a letter, number, or certain vocabulary and I tell her to hide it in the picture as tricky as she can. Usually, she says “Teacher, can you find the letter __” and I say “Yes, but first let’s complete this task.”
In playing this game, I keep her entertained and fulfill her needs, while also getting her to complete the lesson and learn promptly. Use whatever playful behavior they are using against you and work with it towards your advantage.
I get it some teachers prefer to be stricter. In my opinion, that won’t get you respect from your student or deal with the situation that you have. You have to be flexible and able to adapt to anything to be successful and attract a variety of students with different kinds of personalities.
When I began teaching and working my way through meeting so many different students I realized how much of a blessing it was to get to build relationships with these kids and be able to positively influence their life and make them smile. It’s a lot of trial and error in this process, but always remember that those who can adapt to change quickly and don’t get frustrated, but work with their obstacles are the truly successful ones. Always remember that there will always be people watching so treat each class like you’re trying to win a million bucks!