There is nothing wrong with a class clown.
In fact, students gifted with a clever sense of humor can be a wonderful asset to your classroom.
They can be another ingredient in the mix that helps you create a learning environment students love being part of.
The truth is, the most effective classrooms laugh. They laugh and joke and enjoy each other much more than most teachers realize.
As long as it’s done within the confines of the class rules, humor should be encouraged and even led by the teacher.
It makes your ability to influence behavior that much stronger.
But when a student steps outside those boundaries to deliver an ill-timed one-liner, it can have the opposite effect. It can pull the entire class off task. It can cause silliness and excitability. It can encourage others to do the same.
It can also make the teacher feel as if it was done at their expense, especially if it happens during direct instruction.
After all, in one fell swoop a funny remark can undo the time and effort that went into creating a captivating lesson or engaging activity.
It’s natural to be offended, to take it personally, to glare daggers in the student’s direction or cut them off with a biting rebuke.
But an angry reaction will only make matters worse. It will extend and deepen the interruption. It will bring stress and negativity into your classroom. It will ensure a slow return to focused work and cast a dark cloud over the rest of the day.
It will also put into motion an antagonistic relationship with the offending student. One that can be difficult to overcome.
So, how should you handle it?
Well, it’s instructive to look at the situation from the student’s perspective. The truth is, when they make a silly comment, their intention isn’t to humiliate you. How you feel about it emotionally isn’t even on their radar. They just want to crack up their classmates. That’s it.
Now, it’s important to point out that such outbursts are disrespectful, no doubt about it. A willingness to interrupt your teaching shows a lack of regard for you as well as their classmates.
But the class clown is only thinking of themselves and the attention the moment can bring them.
So you must tread lightly.
You must approach the situation shrewdly and strategically rather than impulsively. You must handle it in such a way that minimizes the disruption, yet at the same time holds the student accountable, restores respect for you, and lessens the chances of it happening again.
Reacting in anger won’t cut it, not even close. In fact, the most effective reaction is no reaction at all.
Don’t frown. Don’t tense. Don’t even sigh. Just stand in place and wait for the moment to pass. Wait for movement to cease. Wait for silence to be restored.
Let the weight of disrupting the sacredness of teaching and learning in your classroom dawn on the offending student. Let them realize of their own accord that they just interrupted, disrespectfully, the teacher they like and admire.
Let the entirety of the moment hang in the air as a message to every student.
You see, when you let the elephant in the room just stand there, alone and awkward and shuffling its feet, the lesson becomes powerful and meaningful to everyone in the class.
But especially to the offending student, whose witty quip now rings hollow and absurdly out of place.
When the moment is right—and you’ll know when—calmly take a step or two toward the student, deliver your consequence matter-of-factly, then turn and get on with your lesson.
In this way, you safeguard your relationship with the disruptive student. You restore, and even increase, respect for you. And you all but remove the chances of it happening again.
In less than 60 seconds you’re back to work.
As if it never happened.
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