How to Deal with Students that Talk in Class, Part 2

In part 1, Bill Roach gave some diplomatic suggestions on how to deal with “Chatty Cathys,” or students who talk in class to the point of being disruptive. (I should also add “Chatty Charlies” to the list. Rest assured, I’ve had to ask a few men to be quiet during class!)

Part 2 contains my personal tips for dealing with disruptive students that range from mildly serious, to humorous, to laying down the law of the land.

How likely you are to encounter problematic students and how you choose to respond will depend on a variety of factors. It could be your market. I may have fewer people talking incessantly in my classes in the mountains of Colorado than, say, suburban New Jersey. It could also be the time of day. A 5:30 a.m. class is less likely to be disrupted by talkers than a 9:30 a.m. class.

It also depends on the culture of your club. Does management lay down the law, or do they look away? Are customers “always right,” even when they’re completely in the wrong? Do other instructors allow talking much more than you, leaving you at the mercy of poorly trained students?

It’s also possible that you could be partially at fault. What culture have you established in your own classes? Perhaps you haven’t yet acquired the confidence to speak your mind or to counter a strong-willed member. If you’ve been lenient in the past, it will be much harder to put your foot down. It’s not impossible—you’ll simply have to re-establish the ground rules.

Unfortunately, students may feel like they have the upper hand, and since they are “paying” your salary, they may feel like they can do whatever they want.

As Bill mentioned in part 1, if the students who talk in class are disrupting others, it changes the experience for everyone else. It is not up to the rest of the members to keep the quiet; your students look to you to do so. It’s a role you need to take seriously.

Preempt the disruptions

4 Responses to “How to Deal with Students that Talk in Class, Part 2”

  1. Shari Miranda says:

    So, what I’m wondering about are the students who’ve been chatting before class and don’t feel like stopping even though you’re clearly trying to get started. What if the instructor can’t do the intro stuff and describe the class objectives because of the talkers? I hate this! It can make me feel rattled and disrupts my flow before I even get started. At the club where I’ve taught for a long time, I know them well enough that I can joke with them to “zip it.” But at a new place where I just started teaching, a member was chatting away and it made it very hard for me to tell them what was planned for the class. I had to get off my bike, mic off, and go over and say, “Would you be willing to not talk while I’m describing the ride?” She got offended. It’s all OK now (the owner/manager is supportive and we had a good chat about this particular member and her “needs”) but I’m curious if others have some suggestions for how to get chatty riders’ attention at the very start of class.

    • Christine Nielsen says:

      One thing that I have found effective is to slowly increase the volume of the pre-class music. People start to talk louder as a result. Then, when I want to start class, I take the volume completely down. The people who remain talking areevery obvious and I jump in as soon as they show any sign of feeling abashed.

      I have also been known to stand between talkers while I introduce the class on-mic. If that makes you uncomfortable, try doing the intro from the back of the room. That change in dynamic can work wonders.

  2. Renee Shapurji says:

    Thanks Bill,
    I like your suggestions and i’m going to use the 5:00 time remaining idea but change it to texting and phone check, unless it’s for HRM checking then you have to prove it by showing everyone your strap.

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