Classroom management win!

This is, in many ways, a post-Immersion success story.

Earlier this week, I taught a one-shot session for an introductory class that had about 15 first-year students and 5 seniors.  As soon as we got started, it became apparent that there was one student, evidently a senior, in the class who simply would not stop chatting with her neighbor. She chatted all through the professor’s introduction, and all through my introduction, and she was loud enough that I could hear her from halfway across the room.  And she was sitting in the front row!

I thought about calling her out on her behavior in a variety of ways, but since the professor hadn’t done anything about it while she had the floor, I didn’t really figure it was my place to do anything public about it either. Various forms of the Stern Librarian Glare weren’t working, so I was kind of at a loss as to what to do.

So I went about working with the class – the first 10-15 minutes were mostly lecture, so it was a real problem – wondering what to do about Chatty Cathy here in the front row.  And then a little voice in the back of my head started whispering, “what would Randy do?”  See, Randy Hensley is one of the faculty members at Immersion, and he does a lot of work with the Teacher track participants on using our bodies and voices as instructional tools.

One of the techniques that Randy advocates is moving around the room – a lot – standing at the sides, the back, wherever you can fit, both to keep the students focused on you, and to emphasize what’s going on in the class.  We’re lucky enough to have a room where usually I can get around the whole perimeter, so I’ve been doing more of this and I really like it.  It’s especially useful when we’ve done a group project and the groups are reporting back to the class:  I move around to stand behind the group who’s reporting, which encourages them to deliver their report to the class, not just to me, and it keeps the class’s attention focused on the group.

So anyway, I was moving around the room, and it occurred to me that not only was Chatty Cathy in the front row, she was on the end of the row.  So as she was chatting, I very casually moved around to stand next to her.  And by “next to her,” I really mean “uncomfortably close to her.”  Like, in her personal space close to her.

And then I did one other thing: under ordinary circumstances, my voice projects pretty well.  I’ve never had a problem being heard in that classroom (or, um, any other room actually), and I generally don’t have to concentrate on projecting in that space.  But this time, I cranked it up to eleven.  I didn’t shout, or do anything that would have been obviously  intentional.  I just…really projected.

And it worked!

It only took a sentence or two of this treatment for Chatty Cathy to stop chatting.  So I moved away from her and continued my class.  A few minutes later, she started up again, so I moved back into position, and she stopped again.  It took a few more back-and-forths for her to get the message, but eventually she got it:  her behavior was unacceptable, and I wasn’t going to tolerate it in my classroom.

I’m not at all sure what the other 19 students in the class took away from the session, but as far as I’m concerned, getting this one student to stop an inappropriate behavior made it a success.