Dealing with Disruptive Students

Recently, I read a posting on a listserv from a first year teacher of Broadcast Video Production who had taken over a program with expensive state-of-the-art equipment from a previous teacher who had poor classroom management or organizational skills.

Sounds like a tough situation, right? Then the guidance department gave this new teacher 4 classes of freshmen and one class of repeaters from last year. The posting was asking for suggestions of how to deal with students who he couldn’t trust yet on the very expensive equipment. Also the maturity level of the 9th graders contributed to the unruliness of the classroom.

Quite a few good suggestions were offered:

Raising the bar on expectations, giving lots of feedback, teaching students to take pride in their work, and develop a system to register for the class which requires recommendations along with an application. Provide public positive reinforcement when good work is performed. Enforced removal of students from the program who are problems and create a danger to the well-being of the equipment – usually only one example need be made for the students to “get it.” Finding the funding to get inexpensive cameras for the freshmen to use and require them to “earn the privilege” to use the higher end equipment by showing responsibility with the cheap gear was another good suggestion.

I think all teachers have their own solutions to problems like this. Here are some things which worked for me.
First, my class was only eligible for 10-12th grade students. That eliminated the immature 9th grade problem but, of course, did nothing for the 10th graders who hadn’t crossed that threshold of maturity yet. So the application process kicked in. My class was extremely popular and after all the seats had been filled I often had a waiting list of 50+ students who had applied but hadn’t gotten in. What did we use as selection criteria? We didn’t use recommendations because rarely will a negative recommendation be turned in. Students had to have successfully passed either a foreign language course or geometry. You might say, “Why those two classes? What do they have to do with TV?” The reason is in order to pass either of those two classes the student must have the ability to use logic and nearly everything in the TV equipment world requires logic to solve problems of production.

If there were still more eligible students than we had seats available, we looked at student GPA’s. We’re doing career education and to get a job in the television industry at virtually any level requires post-secondary school education. The students who had demonstrated through their GPA’s that they had the best chance of getting into post-secondary school were chosen first. A side benefit of having overall good students in the class is discipline issues are practically non-existent. Everyone in the class truly wants to be there and knows that they can be replaced easily from the waiting list if they cause a problem.

I began the year with book work. There were lectures, reading, homework, and tests. (“Adapting a ‘Must Learn’ Attitude Toward Written Tests” explains my testing philosophy.) There was the vocabulary of the television production and broadcast journalism industry to be learned. Naturally, this was broken up with demonstrations, exercises, media, and discussions so it wasn’t all drudgery. The point is that I didn’t start the year out with fun and games of production. The students had to “pay their dues” and learn about the industry and the equipment in order to gain a respect for it. I always talked the cost anytime I talked about the equipment.

Early in September I had a meeting in the evening to which all the parents were invited. (I refer you to another article I wrote earlier about the meeting: I held the meeting on two different nights so parents who couldn’t make it to one meeting could make it to another meeting hopefully. They’d sign in so I would know who came. I had the meetings recorded so anyone who missed both meetings would receive a DVD to watch. In this meeting I talked about the rules of the class and the responsibilities that would be expected from the students. One of the things I mentioned in the meeting was that students and their parents would be responsible for the cost of repair or replacement of the equipment which was in their child’s control (see article “Checking out Equipment”: .

After the textbook phase of the class was completed, we moved into equipment proficiency. This is where I would teach each piece of gear in the facility using the terminology that the students learned in the textbook phase of the class. (This is explained in the article: .) The students would then take a proficiency test and pass it before they could actually use that piece of gear. If they couldn’t use the gear because they had not passed it, then they could not produce a television program. In a class called “Broadcast Production” it is required to create productions in order to pass the course.

By the time the students had passed all these requirements, they had surely “paid their dues.” They had a healthy respect for the gear and used it responsibly. In my entire career of 34 years I only had to seek replacement funds from 2 students. Did we have repair bills – of course we did but they were to repair equipment/machine failures not cracked lenses or cameras with tire tread marks on them.

For more classroom management tips, check out some of my other articles for by clicking here

An entire classroom management scheme is detailed in the Instructor’s CD-ROM which accompanies my textbook: Television Production and Broadcast Journalism, (2012) by Goodheart-Willcox, Co., Inc.,