In part 1, Bill Roach gave some diplomatic suggestions on how to deal with “Chatty Cathys,” or students who talk in class to the point of being disruptive. (I should also add “Chatty Charlies” to the list. Rest assured, I’ve had to ask a few men to be quiet during class!)
Part 2 contains my personal tips for dealing with disruptive students that range from mildly serious, to humorous, to laying down the law of the land.
How likely you are to encounter problematic students and how you choose to respond will depend on a variety of factors. It could be your market. I may have fewer people talking incessantly in my classes in the mountains of Colorado than, say, suburban New Jersey. It could also be the time of day. A 5:30 a.m. class is less likely to be disrupted by talkers than a 9:30 a.m. class.
It also depends on the culture of your club. Does management lay down the law, or do they look away? Are customers “always right,” even when they’re completely in the wrong? Do other instructors allow talking much more than you, leaving you at the mercy of poorly trained students?
It’s also possible that you could be partially at fault. What culture have you established in your own classes? Perhaps you haven’t yet acquired the confidence to speak your mind or to counter a strong-willed member. If you’ve been lenient in the past, it will be much harder to put your foot down. It’s not impossible—you’ll simply have to re-establish the ground rules.
Unfortunately, students may feel like they have the upper hand, and since they are “paying” your salary, they may feel like they can do whatever they want.
As Bill mentioned in part 1, if the students who talk in class are disrupting others, it changes the experience for everyone else. It is not up to the rest of the members to keep the quiet; your students look to you to do so. It’s a role you need to take seriously.