3 Tips On How To Mitigate An Extreme Classroom Management Issue




John Doyle is systems scientist at Caltech and has coined an interesting phrase: robust-yet-fragile.  I first learned of his work while reading Anderw Zolli and Ann Marie Healy's book Resilience.  (It is a good read if you like Taleb's The Black Swan or Antifragile)

Robust-yet-fragile seems counterintuitive.  From Zolli and Healy:
"( robust-yet-fragile systems are)...complex systems that are resilient in the face of anticipated dangers... but highly susceptible to unanticipated threats."
Understanding this concept will give educators an additional tool in their classroom management toolbox.

The teacher's classroom is a complex system abounding with anticipated management issues: tardiness, inattention, distracting behavior, chatting etc.

You have effectively learned to deal with these foreseen issues and have practiced solution implementation.  For example you use physical proximity to hush a a chatty student without altering your lesson.

Planning to prevent and manage small issues makes your classrooms robust: immune to small disruptions.

However, acknowledge that once in a while, you find yourself knee deep in a situation that no one could've imagined.  "Knee deep" management issues are one-of-a-kind that cause you to shake your head in disbelief.

Extreme events, if handled improperly, can derail and destroy a lesson or worse, a classroom culture and environment.

This article is about dealing with extreme, lesson ending, classroom igniting events by mitigating their impacts.

The goal is to make your classroom resilient to any and all management issues.



The difference between an amateur and professional teacher is how they deal with these extreme, unanticipated, potentially derailing management issues.

The spontaneous nature of these management issues make them difficult to handle.  Rather than try to prevent them, learn to mitigate.

To mitigate means to minimize the impact of a negative event.  In our classrooms, a negative event is a management issue and the impact as it pertains to the other students.

Though all extreme management issues are different, how you react will have commonalities.  Your reaction should have one, core task: minimize the impact of the disruption on the other students.

To mitigate a potential classroom disaster, implement the three removals.

From this point forward "the students" refers to those not engaged in the disruptive behavior. 

Removal #1: your emotions

Though whatever is transpiring no doubt caught you off guard and your insides are bursting with emotion, keep calm.  How you react is how your students will react.  The adage "don't let them see you sweat" has never been more appropriate.

If you panic, so will they.  Reacting calmly, swiftly, and efficiently will keep the emotions of the students in check and minimize the emotional impact of the event.

The goal is to keep your students from feeling anxious, nervous, scared, or stressed.  Negative emotions effect the brain's ability to learn.

Removal #2: the student

Extreme, disruptive behavior can be aggressive and vicious (think a fight).  As quick and safely as possible, remove the disruptive students from the view of the others.

Remember, our goal is to minimize the impact on the students not involved.  Keeping them in a highly charged environment ignites an emotional response which impedes learning. 

Out of sight-out of mind.

Removal #3: your responsibility

Without question, a management issue of this magnitude requires the assistance of support staff and administration.  Your responsibility, at this point, is to the students sitting in your classroom waiting to learn.

Enlisting the help of an administrator gets you back in the room teaching.  Though you are qualified to resolve the problem from start to finish, it is not your job.  Extreme situations are to be handled by other professionals in your building.

After passing the problem to the appropriate person, follow up.  Show support and offer assistance.  Most importantly, show gratitude.

To summarize: extreme, rare management issues have the potential to destroy a classroom culture.  It is beyond reason to try to prevent such issues.  We can only control how we react to them.  Our objective is to mitigate, or minimize the impact of the event on the rest of the students.

By removing our emotions, removing the disrupting students, and removing responsibility, you restore your classroom back to the necessary equilibrium.

How do you mitigate extreme management issues in your classroom?  Connect with The Pragmatic TV Teacher and share!

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: Ed Gregory from Stokpic

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