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Six Common Classroom Irritations

Have you noticed that the same old problems keep resurfacing year after year in your classroom?  Isn’t it funny how the little things sometime put us over the edge?  I can always deal with that “special” child, but the continuous line at my desk about drives me crazy.  Here are six different classroom irritations which I find to be the most annoying plus some possible solutions to think about before school starts.

A.  Children Who Are Always at the Teacher’s Desk

1)    Give the student “question coupons or tickets.”  Three is a good number.  The child must give you one coupon each time s/he comes to your desk.  When the child uses up all of her/his tickets, s/he can no longer come up to to your desk.  The students soon learn to “think about” what questions they truly need to ask the teacher.
2)    Stack three cups on each child’s desk which the children change as needed.  Green (or whatever color you chose) means the student is on task and has no questions.  Yellow means the student needs to ask the teacher a brief question.  Red means the student has no idea of what they are doing and needs help.  This color requires that the teacher goes and assists the child.

B.    Getting a Drink; Using the Restroom

1)   Try permitting this only during non-instructional time.
2)   Set the number of times each student may go per the week.
3)   Allow water bottles in the classroom.  Research has proven that a hydrated mind works best.
4)   Have a restroom pass so only one student is out of the classroom at a time.
5)   Have a sign out sheet to monitor the time a student is gone and the number of times a student goes.
6)   Have a special hand signal the children use to indicate they need to use the restroom; so, all the teacher has to do is nod her/his head.
7)   Count when the children are getting a drink at the drinking fountain such as 1-2-3.  This way everyone is given the same amount to time.
8)   Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer by the door so children may use it before lunch to clean their hands.  (Unfortunately, not all children wash their hands after using the restroom.)

C.    The Pencil Sharpener

1)    Have a box of presharpened pencils that all the children may use.
2)    Make a designated time when students may sharpen pencils.  If you have an electric pencil sharpener, unplug it during the off limits time.
3)    Designate an individual to be the “pencil sharpener.”  This can be a daily job in your classroom.  This person performs the task of sharpening pencils before school, after school, or during any other designated time.
4)    Place a file card with a very short pencil attached to it by the pencil sharpener.  On the card, write, “If your pencil is shorter than this pencil, you may NOT sharpen it.” The children are to hold up their pencil and match it to the one on the card.  If it is longer than the one on the card, they may sharpen it; if it is the same length or shorter, they should throw the pencil away as it is too short to sharpen.
5)    Have two cups of pencils near the pencil sharpener, one for dull pencils and one for sharpened pencils.  When a child’s pencil is dull, s/he places the pencil in the dull cup and takes one from the sharp cup.
6)    If students have a “special” pencil (such as a gift from someone), they must have their own sharpener at their desk.  This avoids claiming that the pencil sharpener “ate” their special pencil which may create drama as well as tears.

D.   Stress – Especially at Test Time

1)   Have a “stress spot” in the room where a student may go and sit quietly.  You might have a Pilate’s ball there (a large ball on which a student sits and balances themselves) for the student to use.

2)   Always have stress balls available.  These are inexpensive and come in all different shapes and sizes.  In my classroom, I provide a basket of apple stress balls which my students (college age) may take and use at any time.  Many use them during test time.
3)  Walk around the room placing your hand on the student’s shoulder.  Give them a word of encouragement such as: “You are doing a great job.”

E.  Tattling

1)   Clarify the difference between tattling and telling so the children can recognize each.
2)   Explain when students should come and tell:  emergencies, when someone is hurt; when someone is being harmed.
3)   Teach students to be responsible for themselves.
4)  Teach the students to use “I” sentences with others.  (Example: “I” do not like it when you take my crayons.”)
5)   A good teacher response is: “Oh, well!”  This keeps you out of the situation without showing partiality to any child.
6)   Have the students write their complaints on a small sheet of paper (the larger the paper, the more room there is to complain) and submit them to you.  Or place a jar or container in the room in which the students can place their complaints.  Be sure the student writes his/her name on the complaint.  Check them often.  If the same complaint keeps reoccurring, it is probably time to have a one-on-one conference with that child.

A.  Teasing

1)   Ask the student, “Is what is being said true?”
2)   Separate the students.
3)   Read a story about teasing to the whole class.
4)   Have the “teasers” hold hands, look each other in the eye, and apologize.
5)   At the beginning of year, establish a rule of “No Teasing.”  Teach it, refer to it, and create an environment that fosters it.
6)   Have the students give out “warm fuzzies” to each other.  You can participate also. Create a bulletin board or similar space where each child’s name is written. Hang a small paper bag under their name.  During the day, each student may write something nice about someone who helped or encouraged them or someone else and put it in the child’s bag.  At the end of the week, each child checks their paper bag for “warm fuzzies”.    Key:  Check to make sure each child gets a “warm fuzzy” each week.

Now it's your turn.
Leave a comment explaining your greatest classroom irritation. 
 If possible, give a suggestion on how to solve the problem.


Lisa said...

You have some excellent points here scipi. I never let my students come to my desk or get up and walk over to me. I train them from day one to raise their hand. I tell them that my desk area is like my private office, and sometimes I have confidential things on my desk. They can come over if I invite them over or I will go to them. I'm going to put a little pencil on a card! That's a good one! Sharpening pencils to the nub drives me crazy! LOL!

Michelle Reagan said...

These are great ideas. I used to give my children who constantly came up to my desk "Question Quotas" for each day because I couldn't stand it, but I like how your ideas are visual. I will be incorporating some of these in my classroom this year!

Amy (aka Science Stuff) said...

You hit the nail right on the head with this article!

Karla said...

These are the biggest irritations in the classroom. I have one more to add: The student that wants to follow me around the room, tapping me on the shoulder to continually tell me something!! I me makes me crazy!

Thanks for all of the great suggestions to put an end to these irritations!

Anonymous said...

One of my biggest irriations is students leaning back in their chairs. I have been known to require students to stand all class period because they couldn't keep the desk on four legs. I spent today lugging desk upstairs and downstairs so that I have the kind that are connected. It elinimates this problem. :)

Elaina @

The Teaching Bank said...

I agree with your list and love your tips! One that drives me bonkers is the lack of listening to and/or following directions. There is always that one kid that asks the "obvious" question right after giving the directions. I haven't found away to solve this 100% but it really helps by making sure there are visual cues as well auditory cues to help the students stay best organized and focused. Solid structure helps the students to anticipate what to do many times.

MrsMc said...

What an awesome article. I'm in my third year and still trying to figure out these very issues. Thanks a bunch!

Teach123 said...

One of the best ways I've found to deal with tattling is a program called "kelso's choices". Our school counselor introduced the program. Then I took it one step further. I set up a Kelso's Corner (complete with poster of choices and a Kelso frog stuffed animal). When 2 students come to me with a conflict, I send them to Kelso's Corner to work out their conflict. When they agree on the solution, they come back and report how they solved their problem. This works with kindergarten/1st grade. It would have to be tweaked with older students. The most important thing is the Kelso's Choices put tools in your students' toolbox for dealing with problems.