We’ve all had moments when a student talks in class and disrupts everyone. Not unlike a regular school teacher, it annoys us while leading the class because we lose our flow and concentration. We also know it annoys their fellow students and makes it hard for them to follow our cues and stay focused. But what can we do about it? In part 1, Bill Roach discusses several steps you can take to keep students in line. Jennifer Sage has some additional advice in part 2.
When faced with students who disrupt the class by talking, I feel it is important to address the situation rather than pretend it is not happening. It is my firm belief that we have a responsibility to provide a good environment for all of our students. I am not an authoritarian instructor but I am firm on this point.
I recently had this experience in a crowded class. One participant was carrying on a rather loud conversation with his companion on the next bike. They were located in about the center row of the class. Since I could hear their conversation, I was fairly certain that it was distracting to those around them.
It is important that we deal with these situations from a posture of concern for the rest of the class and not from any bruised ego we might have about being disrespected by a student. Make an assessment to determine if intervention is needed. In addition to my own observation, I usually watch to see if the other students around the talker seem distracted by the conversation.
There is no one answer for these situations. Sometimes the talkers are genuinely unaware of the distraction they create. Other times, they almost seem to be daring you to do something.
When I observe talking, I try to judge the situation and then decide at what level to intervene. First, I attempt to use lower-level interventions and then escalate as necessary. My goal is to avoid letting the situation become an incident, but I will not abandon the overall welfare of the class to the whim of one member.
What do you do when faced with a student that talks in class? Do you have other tips that you’ve used? What is the most unusual situation you’ve faced?
Bill Roach is a Star 3 Spinning instructor, personal trainer (NASM-CPT, CEX, WLS), and lead indoor cycling instructor for the Des Moines Metro YMCAs. He also has a background as a long-distance competitive cyclist. He is retired from a career in communications (PRSA/APR) in the Iowa attorney general’s office.