The teaching practicum is a pivotal event for pre-service teachers to experience the transition from being students to being teachers. This paper examines the emergence of 'unruly pupils' as a central concern for pre-service English language teachers in their teaching practicum. The inquiry relates the pre-service teachers' perceived challenge of 'unruly pupils' to the mediation of contextual conditions and processes as well as the marginal positions in which they found themselves during the teaching practicum. The article also reports on the efforts that they undertook to address this perceived challenge. The findings suggest that pre-service teachers are encouraged to interrogate the contextual conditions and processes underlying the perceived challenge of 'unruly pupils' in their transition to being teachers, rather than treat it merely as a relationship challenge.