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Feedback From the Field: Disruptive Students

In a previous issue of Inner IDEA Body-Mind-Spirit Review, we asked: How do you deal with a disruptive or needy participant without making him or her feel singled out?

“I’ve taught group exercise for 30 years so I’ve been up against many needy and disruptive individuals. An instructor can be a moving target, so it’s important to be calm and assertive, and to inform management of impending phone calls and/or emails that person may shoot off to try and trump your leadership! 

“Needy or disruptive people can be dealt with on an individual basis. If someone is questioning me and it’s relevant, I respond with enthusiasm.  If the tone is confrontational I’ll ask the person to talk after class. If he or she presses on then I ignore the behavior; or, if it’s affecting the group I’ll tell the person to look for another class where she will be more comfortable. The latter almost always disarms them.”

— Lisa Roper, Cupertino, California

“I try to come up with something witty and wonderful to deflect the negativity of the participant. I continue to progress the class through the movement and I go personally to that individual and work with him to make the appropriate corrections in his form. I may have time to correct one more person so the disruptive individual is not ‘singled out.’


" I think that by being present in front of the person, it takes some of the intensity out of the comment. It also proves that I care and want them to ‘get it.’ After class I may mention that I am available to give more information/attention if they would like to sign up for a personal training session.”

— Scottie Johnson, West Linn, Oregon

“I typically go closer to the disruptive participant. Mostly, I find that person feels uncomfortable with his or her abilities. Sometimes they aren’t happy with my cuing but mostly I find it’s an issue the person has with confidence.  So I’ll move close enough to whisper, ‘how are you doing?’ Can I help you with a transition or pose?’ I have never had a situation where that did not help the person calm down and feel a part of the group. So that they don’t feel singled out, I will do this for other participants throughout class so they feel it is a part of the typical class.”

— Leslie Denny, Oceanside, California



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