Dealing with Disruptive Kids as a Class Volunteer

Updated on October 12, 2012
J.F. asks from Milledgeville, GA
9 answers

My son's school encourages parent involvement and classroom volunteering, which is one of the things I love about it. For the most part, the students (early elementary age) are a joy to work with and eager to learn. However, there are 2 or 3 who tend to be disruptive. The class breaks up into four groups in the afternoon for "centers," where they rotate through studying different topics. The teacher leads one center and parent volunteers lead the other three.

Because of classroom space, one or two of the groups sometimes go to a nearby room to do their activities. I often have at least one of the disruptive students in the group that I am leading, and they become even more so when not under the eye of their teacher. By disruptive I mean talking constantly, refusing to follow instructions, goofing off, ignoring me when I tell them to quiet down, and even smart-mouthing me at times -- nothing very serious, but annoying and distracting to the students who are staying on task.

Although the teacher is willing to intervene if a student is out of control, I know that she is trying to teach too, and I don't want to interrupt her with a behavior problem unless I have to. I have been trying to handle these situations on my own, but I'm having limited success. I would appreciate any tips on strategies that have worked for you in dealing with disruptive and disrespectful students.

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answers from St. Louis on

Ask the teacher how she would like you to deal with it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I routinely help at my kids' school and in the classroom too.
Now, I know the Teachers and how they facilitate their class/kids.
They also know me. They have no problem with how I manage the kids.
Per disruptive kids... I verbally manage them and then if need be, I tell the child, as I take out a notepad, that I am writing their name down and what they did, so that the Teacher will also have these notes. Or, they are put on their desk and not allowed to interact.
I also tell the child point blank "YOU are disrupting the group. That is wrong. You know better. Now, SHOW me you are a big boy, and can behave..." then I look at the child, until they change their demeanor.
Or I tell the child that (and the Teacher does do this), the Teacher, per my notes, will call their parent.
I also emphasize, to the child, that they be a TEAM PLAYER.
I am very pointed with those disruptive kids. Firm and no nonsense.
The Teacher has no problem with that.
I also tell the child "You need to apologize to the group... you are disrupting their school time, I am sure their parents will not appreciate that." And I wait, until the child apologizes. To the group.
I make sure, I tell the child that their behavior affects EVERYONE and it is selfish. I don't mince words. The offending kids are usually more respectful after that. And I compliment them when they are doing better.
I encourage them as well, saying " I know you can be a gentleman... " or "good job, I knew you can do it" when they show improvement.
- The Teacher has no problem with this. And I do speak to her as well about it. And the Teacher ALSO tells the class, that the Volunteer Moms, are to be listened to.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

I say leave it to the teacher, but only because I stopped and pulled one aside once and just talked to them and explained that just cause the teacher isn't watching doesn't mean they can misbehave. The following week I was told by the teacher that the parent complained about me and said that I yelled at her kid!
It really turned me off from volunteering. I would never yell at anyone's child. And I didn't want any problems. Never again. At least for me.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

DO NOT DISCIPLINE THE CHILDREN. This is NOT your job. I would suggest asking the teacher how she would like for you to address the behaviors when they occur. You have no authority in the situation and the last thing you need is to be the topic of another parent's complaint.

Annoying and distracting are pretty typical for "unsupervised" children. Let the teacher know what is going on and follow her lead. She may do a mini-lesson on respect and appropriate learning behavior with the whole class and then pull the few students aside and let them know that she is aware of their behavior and make them aware of the consequences.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I was a first grade aide, and also volunteered as a parent at that age so I know what you mean!
My best advice is that you not be afraid to be very firm, even "mean" if you need to be. I think most of us are uncomfortable disciplining other peoples' kids but often they push the limits with an "unofficial" adult. This is why I HATED subbing, the troublemakers were always worse without their "real" teacher around :(
One or two short but firm warnings should be enough. Let them know if they choose not to behave appropriately then they will sit out of the activity. Then follow through. Make sure if you DO give a time out that you remind them that was THEIR choice.
You may want to run it by teacher first, but this was generally how we did it at our school. Oh, and if they do those colored behavior cards, parent volunteers were allowed to move a behavior card down if they felt it was necessary (those were REALLY effective for us.)
Good luck and THANKS for being a volunteer, it isn't always easy!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Ditto Jo and Krista, ask the teacher and follow her lead.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

class conference with your group prior to beginning the lessons. Clearly state your expectations & encourage the kids to verbalize how they can help with behaving on task. Have them create a policy for how to handle disruptions & have them decide the punishment for disturbing the learning process.

As goofy as this sounds, using a class meeting will create autonomy for each child & peer support (in a positive manner) for the whole group.

Now for individual moments, the school counselor taught us to redirect our son's focus to the task at tapping a pencil on the desk next to his paper. By teaching this behavioral modification to the child, it can be used as a tool to prevent disruptions. & I swear to WORKS!! Methods such as this helped keep our son off meds for his ADD. :)

Good Luck....!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Florence on

I am a parent of young children just starting out in school now, but i used to be a substitute teacher. Granted, I mainly did middle and high school, but it seems to me that you need to establish the rules and consequences just like you would with your own kids. I understand that you may not feel comfortable, so definitely talk to the teacher and have her give you the protocol--so that you can consistently escalate the situation every time so the kids learn that their behavior has real consequences. And if the kids continue to not comply, then bring the teacher in. She may be teaching, but it is also her class and she is responsible for them.

One of the other commenters noted that when she volunteered for her child's class, a parent complained because she took a child aside to talk to them. I don't know...if my daughter was disrupting the class, I would want her to understand that she must respect any adult or volunteer that is teaching her and that she has to listen to them. I'm not one of those super harsh parents with kids that jump when I look at them by any means, but it drives me nuts that parents do not support the education environment--acting like their children are perfect and everyone else is the problem.

I once subbed for a very difficult middle school class for a week while the teacher was on vacation locally. The kids liked me, so she always requested me if she had to take time off. But that week, the kids kind of thought that I was just going to let them get away with whatever--and their assignments were so easy. I actually looked up a number and called the teacher at home one night to let her know that i was going to cancel for the remainder of the week because they were not listening, so she came in, left them a note about how disappointed she was in them and they had to copy it as their assignment for the day. They were shocked! Granted, you are working with younger kids, but in retrospect, I should have just started sending kids to the office. Eventually the asst. principal or counselor would have come in! Ha-ha.

The point is, some of the kids probably think you don't have as much authority, so you need to involve the teacher so that the experience is enjoyable for everyone. Bad kids should not dictate the level/environment of learning for everyone else.



answers from Victoria on

I sub & volunteer and i am honest firm and give a choice. Natalie, what are you supposed to be doing right now? The task is to blah blah blah, now we love having you with us and would like for you to join the group without interupting, but if you would rather spend this time sitting with your teacher, that is your choice. So do you want to stay with us or be with your teacher. I have only had one kid pick the teacher and he was testing to see if i would follow thru. I did. He got detention from teacher and I haven't had any other problems even from the trouble makers. hope this helps.

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