Taking Control of a Toxic classroom before it is Too Late

Toxic classroom

A toxic classroom is full of prevailing chaos and confusion.  Students rule the classroom and teaching and learning are constantly on a downward spiral. The tension in the atmosphere is extremely severe and teachers operate with a sense of intimidation. The will of the students is the first priority in many of these classrooms.

In one school district in the state of Wisconsin, an investigation program planted hidden cameras in the classroom. The discovery revealed shocking information. In one classroom a teacher sat quietly while a group of teenagers played dice in the corner of the room.

Many of the teachers who work in the district, when asked why they were not preventing toxic classroom behavior, these teachers confessed that they were very intimidated by their students, who often invaded the spaces of these teachers without fear of retaliation

Identifying a Toxic Classroom

A toxic classroom is easily identifiable. A sense of daily chaos and confusion is sustained inside the classroom even during assigned quiet times.  From the hallway, outside the door, you can hear students swearing, bullying, and sometimes fighting.  Yelling from the teacher is an all-day routine.  Students enter in and out of the classroom without reservation. Sometimes they run up and down the hallway.

In a toxic classroom, nearly half of the students ignore you, mock you, and dare you to do anything punitive toward them, especially students in middle and high schools. The intimidation factor is higher for teachers operating in the upper grades. However, toxic classrooms cover all grade levels, from K-12 in some districts.

Toxic classroom

Students who are trying to learn and take responsibility don’t feel safe enough to remain focused in a toxic classroom setting. Because they always fear that something could go terribly wrong, they fail to effectively complete assignments.

Taking Authority in a Toxic Classroom

Having been a teacher for 21 years, I have seen and heard everything. My comrades and I have had the opportunity to deal with such classes and take control of the students within it.

If you are a struggling teacher, the good news is that you know you have to take responsibility. The bad news is that if you don’t, you will have to suffer the consequences of failure, intimidation, and possibly dangerous if you don’t act swiftly on the problem.

The bottom line is that, if you want to build a highly profitable classroom environment, you must learn to take control.


Taking control and creating a great classroom environment, an educator needs to consider four uncompromising principles: Transformative Faith, Courage, Perseverance, and personal accountability.  Without these, there can be no effective classroom teaching.

Transformative Faith

Believe that it is possible to transform your classroom. If you don’t believe that you can make a significant impact toward a dramatic change in the minds and hearts of your students, then you will be tempted to look beyond your own creative abilities for the ultimate answer.

Such teachers, because of the unbelief in their ability to reach some of their most toxic students, they give up them and become indifferent to the possibility of positive change in the classroom.

High Needs Environment

The belief that you can transform your classroom from a chaotic mess is the key to driving change in the hearts and minds of the young learners under your watch.


Taking authority in a toxic classroom isn’t for timid teachers. Once students sense that you are intimidated by them, they will take advantage of you as well as take control of the classroom without reservation. Therefore, you must lay down a firm authority regardless of the risks involved.

Intimidation is a big factor in many schools across the nation. Teachers are afraid to discipline bad behavior, especially in the upper-grade level. Students at this level are not little kindergartens or first graders.

I know of schools that are afraid to take smartphones from students.  In the classroom, students set up and listen to inappropriate music and play video games with abandon. Intimidated teachers just sat at their desks and watch the action go down.


A teacher without perseverance will give up on students easily.  The constant discipline, redirection yelling can become quite exhausting. Teachers need extra reserves of energy to deal with a group of students with a toxic attitude.

The best teachers go forward to inspire students despite the difficulties in controlling a chaotic classroom.  Such educators possess the hope against hope mentality, the same mindset that is responsible for some of the greatest feats.

Perseverance has its rewards. The more you integrate this outstanding principle within your daily teaching routines, the more your classroom will become an environment for leading and reaching your highest potential.

Personal Accountability

Ultimately, the ability to take authority in a toxic classroom is your responsibility.  In the expectations of district administrators, you are not allowed to give up on students.  You are an educator with creative intelligence.  You are expected to go beyond the fundamentals of teaching.

Of course, effectively educating students must go beyond basic teaching.  In addition to being a strong disciplinary, teachers must become a psychologist as well as counselors. Students are people with a multitude of personal issues and challenges.  Their academic performance in the classroom will reflect the environment in which they live every day.

Many times we must lay aside our daily lessons to deal with serious behavioral disturbances which erupt constantly throughout a school day.

High Needs Environment

Taking personal accountability doesn’t mean that you don’t enlist others for support; that would be a big mistake. You must enlist as much support as possible, such as the administration, parents and fellow teachers.  Effective classroom management includes engagement with all relevant parties. However, you must have the courage to be the main initiator for your cause.

A classroom in which a teacher doesn’t make any efforts to put a stop to toxic behavior will increase in its level of danger, both toward the teacher and students.

How long it takes to take control of a toxic classroom depends on how quickly and effectively a teacher can get to the root of the problem.  To discover such causes begins with self-examination.  You’ll need to look at your teaching habits and classroom routines.

Is your classroom management in alignment with best practices in education?

Many new teachers fail to keep up with advancements in best practices in educations. Research and discovering profitable teaching and classroom management techniques is the key to gaining mastery in your field.  Implementing these ideas will go a long way in giving you more control of what goes on under your watch.

Is there a certain degree of intimidation and hesitancy in your personality that students sense right away, especially at the beginning of the school year?

Students can sense weak teachers and quickly takes advantage of classroom settings. Constant interruptions which interfere with the lesson delivery and smooth flow of transitions are indications that students are aware that they can affect the learning process.

Teachers who are easily intimidated need to get immediate help in order to change the toxic atmosphere of their classrooms.  Seek out resources that will help you overcome the fear of dealing with angry people. Read self-development books on overcoming fear, attend courses offering skills dealing with angry people, or seek personal counseling.

In today’s schools, it takes tremendous confidence and competence to effectively educate students.

Are you consistent with your style of discipline?

Establishing classroom rules and regulations and enforcing them consistently is what separates safe, productive environments from toxic ones.  As teachers, we must be willing to discipline a child a hundred times a day for a repeated violation if necessary.

Toxic classroom

Consistency in disciplining your students will prove to them that you cannot be persuading in letting irresponsible behavior go unpunished.

Asking the above questions will help you decide the root of the problem when it comes to taking personal responsibility. Many of our problems with students can be reduced if we examine our own teaching habits and classroom routines.

Networking with Significant Others

However, working with Parents, Administrators, and fellow teachers as effectively as possible will give you the edge in the classroom.

If you can get parents involved constantly, your toxic classroom behavior will drastically decrease to a point of normalcy. Children are more influenced by their parents than they are persuaded by teachers and administrators.

As a teacher, I have worked with parents for years.  When parents are heavily involved in the academic life of their child, such student can make a 360-degree turnaround.  I have experienced this as a teacher on several occasions.  Dedicated parents are transformative dynamite when it comes to academic excellence.

You must take control of a toxic classroom before it’s too late. You must take charge of the situation and pay the full price of establishing order and productivity in the classroom.

After you have mastered the art of classroom management, you will know exactly what to do to avoid the experience of a toxic classroom environment.






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