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In the Classroom

Responding to Disruptive Student Behaviour

Distressed? Is the student struggling?  Signs of distress could include Anxiety: irritability, restlessness, nervousness, fearfulness, aggression; Depression: lack of energy, withdrawal, sadness, hopelessness; class behaviours: changes in attendance, excessive procrastination, poorly prepared or no work completed; unusual stories, writing, etc., concern/complaints from others; personal: marked change in demeanor, personal hygiene, dependency, indecision, confusion, physical complaints, drug & alcohol abuse.
Strategies responding to Distressed Behaviour:

  • Observe behaviours
  • Express concern for a student demonstrating worrisome behavior
  • Actively listen to thoughts & feelings
  • Show student respect
  • Identify options for seeking help
  • If suicide ideation – ask directly & refer to Counselling and Psychological Services or Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team
  • Don’t promise confidentiality
  • Set boundaries
  • Seek self-care as required

Difficult? Is the student inappropriate/disrespectful? Do they have problems with boundaries/overly demanding? Are they disruptive to the classroom environment? Are they sending inappropriate emails?
Strategies responding to Inappropriate or Disruptive Behaviour:

  • State your expectations in class and in syllabus – follow through
  • Encourage the use of only Dal email for communication
  • Model the behaviour you expect
  • Foster a respectful and collaborative classroom
  • Incorporate peer observation and feedback if possible
  • Capture teachable moments
  • Provide ongoing feedback
  • Confront the disruption with:
    - Calmness, fairness                  
    - Silence 
    - Timeliness
  • Avoid judging, sarcasm
  • Address larger issues one-on-one
  • Comment on what is observed, behaviour
  • Decrease tension by reducing stimulation-- having person sit down
  • Acknowledge problem
  • Be an active listener/supportive
  • Be aware of non-verbal cues (yours/theirs)

Dangerous? Violent Student (or Staff) Behaviours include, but are not limited to, physical assault, weapons possession, bomb threats, and threat to kill or injure others. Threats may be written, verbal, posted on social media, communicated via email/ text message, or made by gesture. They may be direct, indirect, conditional or veiled.
Contact Security Services in an emergency situation. 494-4109