Disciplining adult learners?!?


Hi everyone!!

3rd blog post in a row? My oh my!! Here’s the thing, I just could not not share (is that correct??Yup!) what happened today and of course ask you what you think. Today’s ‘hot’ topic is……… (drum roll…. which is not necessary if you have read my title- don’t look at it now!!)….’ disciplining’ adult learners.

So, I teach kids/ teenagers and adults. ‘Disciplining’ a kid is easy.

You can:

Tell em to write 100 times

I will never do that again (haha… as if…).

Or even better

Tell the kid to stand in the corner ,hop up and down for an hour.

(Just kidding!!!!)

Seriously though

You can:

Explain rules at the beginning of the year.

Get them to write up/ sign a teacher- student contract (maybe?) with what is acceptable/ not acceptable

Reward good behaviour with stickers (again an if-y topic)


Talk to the kid and say what you do not find acceptable/ unacceptable.

Talk to the parent if the kid still misbehaves in your class aka is a little terrorist.

Bottom line folks. A teacher has got to do whatever he/ she can in order to be able to carry out a lesson without having to deal with bad classroom behaviour/ rudeness etc. etc.

Now you may ask,

What do you consider bad behaviour?

Checking their phone 24/7 during the lesson ( I don’t mind phones in class FYI).

Talking on the phone during the lesson.

Nervous laughter that does not stop.

Joke telling (24/7).

Making fun of me/ other kids.

Chewing gum (like a goat) in my class.

Oh! I also hate it when my students wear hats in class… but I guess that’s just me…..

Now, what happens when your learner is a CEO of a super duper company, older than you and has an opinion? Well, if you are like me, a pushover, you are screwed (oops… bad word). You endure and look at the clock.

I was teaching a big boss and the big boss was chewing gum throughout the lesson. And OK ,gum may not be a big deal if done in a ‘polite’ manner aka silently, but when you are using a headset and sound is magnified the chewing is….. soooooooooooooo bad. But on the other hand, I was teaching the Big Boss, and I am an employee who does not want to piss off the big boss, so I shut up and just had the most annoying lesson!

So, do you think I should have told my learner to spit out his gum? Isn’t it like an unwritten classroom rule to not chew gum during the class? Am I supposed to play bad cop when teaching adults? Talk about classroom etiquette?  What would you have done? What can you do? Remember it’s online. Not even face to face. Plus it was the 1st time it happened.

Digging deeper

Did I not say anything because of gender? Work relationship (cause technically he is paying me)? Was it age? Was I being polite and trying not to offend him?  If this was a kid, the gum would have been gone in like 5 secs.

Anyway, that’s today’s story and sure it isn’t like the biggest problem ever but it did get me wondering.

Should I have spoken up for all teachers or was a right to let it go (for today) and just wait for the chewing torture to end?

Chomp chomp in my ears for 45 mins……..at least he didn’t make a bubble……

Please let me know what you think…..




12 thoughts on “Disciplining adult learners?!?

  1. I think it depends how much the thing is annoying you – different teachers will be annoyed by different things.
    At the end of the day, the adult is paying you for your time. So if my adult learners don’t do their homework or they spend part of their allocated time with me on a phone call, they need to take responsibility for that and any effect it may have on their progress. I have made a comment in the past about something that was hurting my ears – background noise that was avoidable. I said I wanted to give the best lesson possible, and that was more difficult because I couldn’t hear them as well – which was a polite way of saying that the noise was driving me crazy and giving me a headache. I guess there are extra considerations if you are working for a company rather than looking for your own students, but everyone needs to work out what’s acceptable for them. I don’t think you can discipline adult learners, but you can try to negotiate a better deal in terms of behaviour, or if it is really a problem for you, end the contract as a last resort.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, discipline is too strong a word which is why I used ” , but I think that if this continues, I will defo say something……


  2. Hi Joanna

    I think I would have said something because it affects the way a person sounds! Would he have chewed gum if he were meeting his bank manager asking for a huge bank loan? Probably not.
    I used to say something to students who were preparing for exams and came to class chewing gum – but always in a more jokey way.

    I’m enjoying all the blog posts by the way.


    • Hi Sue!!! Thank you. You are right about the bank. He wouldn’t be chewing if he was in a meeting…. I think that if this happens again… I will say it in a nice, funny way!! Thanks for reading x


  3. I agree with Kirsty’ comments. I don’t teach online but my pet hate is adults sniffing loudly in class!!! Sounds disgusting & so unnecessary; any tips on how best to deal with it?


  4. Pingback: Dealing with difficult students… | The Best Ticher

  5. I think I would have said something. As others have commented above, if it affects communication, like you can’t hear him properly or think he might not hear you, then politely ask if there’s a way to improev the situation. I think general politeness means that both parties in a conversation should do their best to make the conversation work as well as possible, and no matter what the hierarchical relationship between you may or may not be like, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making a comment, as long as you do it politely. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I get the issue with upper management, but it is all a matter of professionalism. I taught a one to one in company lesson with a top manager in a Spanish company and the lesson was constantly interrupted by phone calls. I spoke to him and explained that I had taken the time to man his lesson and that there was an ‘agenda’ to get through in h hour and that he was basically wasting my time and the company’s money. We agreed that we would move the lesson to the board room and no calls would be put through. Don’t be afraid to tell students the truth. Remember that you will have to answer to the training manager and your boss if the don’t achieve their targets.


  7. In the specific example, I would ask for everyone to be on mute whilst not talkin to allow for an comfortable experience for everyone taking part. Don’t continue the talk until everyone is on mute. It’s common practise in business and meeting holders have every right to make this a condition.

    If anyone asks why, you can be bland “to cut out background noise”. If they press to be more specific, say something along lines of “breathing, eating, secondary conversations”. Everyone should know what/who you are talking about


  8. I think as adults we have to make decisions on how we behave by prioritising our actions against the social cues we observe. As other people have recommended, I would suggest polite ways for the student to make interjections. But that can work in reverse. The teacher can use the same indirect/direct cues as you would expect in a business environment. Something like ‘Would you like a tissue to dispose of your gum before the meeting starts?’ is not the same as saying ‘stop chewing’ and it can be presented in terms of cultural awareness and practising social etiquette.


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