There seems to be this idea that as soon as you become a college professor that it’s all cartwheels and lollipops. But classroom management in college is still a thing. I’m pretty sure you have heard from it from all angles: Redirect their attention. Use the distraction as a way to bring it back to the lesson. Relish in your free time. Make sure you keep them active. All of this is fine and great, but what happens if these tricks don’t work on adults? That’s right, I’m talking about college students. Now this can be undergrad, community college, or grad school; either way, they are going to notice if you are treating them like 2nd graders (and they may even take advantage.)
What’s so special about this group of students is that depending on what type of education setting you are in, whether it’s teaching undergrads, graduate students, or community college students, you could either be feeling a blast from the past, or be looking at mirror depending on the age group, and that’s either good or bad. However, the not-so-great part is that teaching college students comes with a whole new set of stressors, like work, families, and other things going on outside of your classroom (which means EXCUSES), self-disclosure, and then of course there is the dreaded what to wear?! But whether it’s your first, or your 101st, walking into a new set of students comes with some type of anxiety because you never know what you’re going to get.
Walking into the college classroom, there is a little b
it more freedom than there is in an elementary or high school classroom. While you may feel like you can speak a little bit more freely here, it’s important to remember you are not their friend. Because there is that chance for an age overlap, you want to make sure you set yourself apart from the student. Do some research about where you are teaching. What do the professors like to be called? How do they dress? Etc… Doing this will help you not only “fit in” at your university, but it will also let your students know you’re the authority figure.
Know your syllabus
So chances are you are creating your own syllabus, so that automatically means you have it memorized, right?
During my teaching assistantship, I had a student email me the day their assignment was due asking me for an extension due to an “extenuating circumstance.” The student knew about this assignment for at least a month so I was very reluctant about giving her an extension. Before I responded, the professor swooped in and responded quoting the syllabus saying “you cannot combine procrastination with an extenuating circumstance.” And I thought I knew my syllabus.
It is also a good rule of thumb to cover all policies, procedures, due dates, and any other categories you decided to include in your syllabus in class. This gives the class the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about assignments. This brings a sense a community to the course and can begin to establish relationships between you and your students.
In “A Behavior Contract That Made a Difference,” Lori Norin and Tom Walton disclosed that there can be a few disruptions during class. “Finally, one day we decided we had had enough. We created a list of behavioral expectations, which we asked students to sign, and thus was born the Speech Department Behavior Contract. Since then it has grown into a well-defined instrument that has had as much impact on student retention, success, and well-being as any other strategy we have added to the curriculum,” (Norin & Walton, 2006, p.12).
There may or may not be those few students who always come in late. Or those girls who always talk in class. Or that one kid who sits in the front of class who either plays with his phone or falls asleep right on queue. Here’s the thing, you know what bothers you and what you consider disruptive to the class.
Whether you’d like to include it in your syllabus or make this a separate activity for the whole class to give their input is up to you. But the chance that there are no disruptions in class is slim to none. In my experience, both as a student and as an educator, having classroom behavior as a separate entity puts emphasis on what you expect from your students throughout the semester.
For the purposes of education, self-disclosure can help the process of learning because it invites the student into your life. When it comes time for discussion there may come a time where you relate to the particular topic at hand. “According to this, teacher has to make a decision whether: the disclosure is understandable for students, relevant at the moment of disclosure (Zhang, Shi, Tonelson & Robinson, 2009), and corresponds with the norms of the class (Goldstain & Benassi, 1994). Before disclosing to the class, the teacher also should assess cultural aspects, students gender, their emotional state and their level of the learning (Zhang, Shi, Tonelson & Robinson, 2009)” (Zardeckaite-Matulaitiene & Paluckaite, 2013).
*Also it should be said, that during self-disclosure and in-depth discussion, things can be triggered, whether it’s in you or within the students. In any sexuality education class there should be a self-care plan specifically outlined for you and you should encourage your students to create one for themselves.
Brookhaven College. (2014, April 10). Classroom Management: Dealing with Difficult Students.
The Daily Beast Company. (2011, October 18). Top 20 College Sex-Ed Programs.
Norin, L., & Walton, T. (2006). A Behavior Contract That Made a Difference. 10 Effective Classroom Management Techniques Every Faculty Member Should Know, pp. 1-15.
Quenqua, D. (2012, April 16). On Campus, Opening Up Conversations About Sex. The New York Times.
Scarleteen: sex ed for the real world. (2014, March 11). Self-Care a La Carte.
Zardeckaite-Matulaitiene, PhD, K., & Paluckaite, U. (2013). The Relation Between Teacher’s Self-Disclosure and Student’s Motivation to Learn. European Scientific Journal, 19 (28), 456-469.