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What are some common discipline problem?

The most common ones are listed in this section. Many of these are different facets of the same phenomenon: a GTA doesn’t feel comfortable exercising their power in class. They want people to see that s/he is a “nice” person; someone that their students can easily approach. As a result, they don’t quiet students who interrupt, deal with the ones who are rude, or they allow vocal students to get their way about how the class should be organized. This results in a downhill slide where the GTA’s authority is undermined by the loud, and the quiet feel helpless and unprotected by the GTA. This is actually a very common phenomenon for first or second time teachers.

Students are talking and interrupting during lecture.

There are multiple ways to deal with disruptive students. You could stop lecturing and wait for the class to quiet down and or directly address the problematic students. Let them know that their disruptions are disrespectful to the other students. If they continue talking let them know they should take their discussion outside.

A more fundamental way is to vary your class more. A class that is 100% lecture is going to drive some students crazy with boredom (I was one of them!). Try to give them some tasks to do in small groups. Or let them work on a short practice quiz as individuals. Or have students come up and make presentations. -EH

Students are restless because you finished class early.

This should not happen because you should always plan more than you think you will be able to do.

If you think you might hit a natural stopping point before the end of a class hour, have a 10-minute problem ready for groups or pairs to solve together or have a review of skills quiz ready for them to take and check themselves. These are things you can prepare ahead of time to write on the board if you have extra time.

Another idea is to always look ahead and prepare a preview questions for the next lesson. Something to get them started on what’s next. If you collect it you can use it to judge their readiness for the next section and adjust your plans accordingly.

If you are finishing early you may be lecturing too much. It is important to engage the students in solving the problems themselves. They should spend some class time working together on problems and presenting their solutions to each other. This generally takes time, more than when you do the explaining, but it is important for them to learn to put their thoughts into words, and when you are lecturing they are not getting a chance to do this.

Students leaving early and coming late.

Set the rules for attendance at the beginning of the semester. Giving quizzes/collecting homework at the beginning of class will prevent tardiness with most students. Taking attendance at the end of class minimizes the number of students that leave early. Any combination of the above will reduce disruptions.

Students missing classes, homework, quizzes and exams.

Students will take advantage of any leniency regarding assignment and testing. Keep in mind that you are first and foremost a student. Every concession you make will extra work for you. It is best to establish guidelines at the beginning of the semester and remain consistent. Beware, you will hear very convincing excuses and any exceptions you make may effect the rest of the class. By making exceptions you put yourself in a position of ranking excuses.


Regarding all issues above as well as most aspects of the class, establish and follow your own policy. This will create an environment in the class where the students are aware of your expectations. In addition you will be more efficient and effective instructor.