I just finished a few lessons with my most difficult classes. They are going much better, but not perfect, for two reasons. One reason is I am becoming more aware of the great diversity of skills of the students. My lesson plans are slowly becoming better. I still have a lot of work to do here.
The biggest reason is the student democracy plan the I mentioned before. I have expanded the plan to almost all of my classes. I have not needed to scold students. If they misbehave, which is becoming more infrequent, I just drop the card on their desk as I walk by. I do not slow down the lesson because part of the reason some students act up is because they want the attention. By dropping the card on the desk without saying anything, I am denying them the attention and one reason for their bad behavior. The cards are also a good reminder that they should not repeat the behavior.
When things were going badly in my classes, I left discouraged and a teacher consolded me, "Do not worry, these are difficult students. I do not know how to motivate them". I said what I truly believed "Somewhere in the country there is a teacher who has the same type of students but is doing a good job teaching them. The problem is not the students. The problem is that I have not learned how to teach them yet."
I feel like the student democracy plan has helped address the disciplinary problems, but I still need to work on making better lesson plans for them.