So you have this learner, or maybe more, who during teaching time tries to make his/her classmates laugh. Sometimes it’s just a look or whispered comment, but it can be a major disruption. It can also be hard to know how to handle.
Should you hold all learners who laugh accountable or just the learner who started it? Also, if nothing was said, is it fair to follow your classroom management plan? In the moment, it can seem as if there is no good answer.
You’ll either have learners getting angry at you—“Oh Nkosi Yam, I didn’t do anything. I just laughed. Is laughter against the rules?”—or you’ll open the door to more of the same behavior.
So what’s the solution?
There are two keys to handling the situation in a way that is both fair and effective.
The first is to set parameters beforehand. In other words, because laughter falls into a gray area, you must sharply define what is and isn’t against the rules ahead of time. In this way, there are no surprises, hurt feelings, or anger towards you.
Doing so is simply a matter of explaining that any behavior that attempts to make other learners laugh during teaching time is a disruption and therefore disobeys rule #1 – Listen and follow directions.
You’ll also want to model specific examples using the exact behaviors you’ve seen in the past. The idea is that once defined any learner who engages in such behavior will be doing so by choice.
The second key is to only enforce a consequence on the troublemaker, which attacks the misbehavior at its source and avoids the perceived unfairness of holding accountable those who, sometimes against their will, laughed. What the learner did or said may in fact have been funny.
It’s even okay for you to smile as long as the humor wasn’t inappropriate. Just follow your classroom management plan as promised and be on your way.
It’s important to mention that when learners repeatedly try to make others laugh, it’s a sign that you’ve been less than consistent in the past. There is a delicate but sure indication of disrespect when they know it will interrupt you, your teaching, and what you’re trying to accomplish.
This emphasizes the importance of strong observation and supervision. If your back is turned and you don’t know who misbehaved, then you’re out of luck. It’s your job to catch them in the act and follow through.
To sum up, first eliminate the gray area by defining the behavior and what rule it disobeys, then hold only the troublemaker accountable.
With these two keys, plus your vigilance, this and other similar disruptions will rarely if ever happen again.
Now it’s your turn. How do you handle class clowns in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below.