Wednesday, November 1
This semester, I noticed a group of students who basically sit in the back and laugh the whole time. Turns out (perhaps sadly), this is nothing new. But for some reason, it's bothering me a lot. It feels like they're lauging at me.

As a result, I'm finding myself growing more and more self conscious, and I'm losing my lecturing mojo. I'm constantly checking my fly, touching my nose, the whole nine. It's stupid, but it's bothering me.

The thing that's so weird about it is the way they laugh. They look at me, but turn their heads, and put their hand up in front of their faces to whisper something to the others. Then they all giggle. While staring at me. With their hands over their mouths. Imagine a 7th grade lunchroom, and you've got the idea.

The thing is, they're not really disrupting the class, just themselves and me. I once made a joke directed toward the entire class to the effect that the lecturing stage was not, in fact, a television, and that I could actually see them chatting. The class laughed. For once, the little group did not.

But they also didn't stop. I'm not sure how to handle this - I don't want it to be obvious that I feel bad, because that's unprofessional. Or is it? Gah, what do you all think?

11 comments:

lime said...

You march right up to them before class and tell them that they can leave if they don't care to listen quietly. How dare they act so rudely!

And after you warn them, if they continue, I think you should stop the whole class, ask them to leave, and then wait for them to do so.

strawberries said...

I agree with Lime. I bet they are disrupting the students who have the misfortune of sitting near them.

i am a strong proponent of telling people to get out if they are rude. of course i have never had to or had the pleasure of doing it...

thistle said...

Can you move around the lecture hall? Because doing a Donahue and walking up and down the aisles can be a really effective way of shutting the gigglers up. If you spend a few minutes delivering the lecture standing right next to them for a few lectures in a row, I bet they simmer down. Especially if you go stand right next to them immediately following a giggling episode.

twilight blue said...

An alternative to kicking them out (though, I would support that, as well!) would be to make it verboten for them to sit together. I have taken to periodically rearranging my students' habitual seating patterns. Sometimes I do this by getting to class 5 minutes early and writing on the board, "today, you must sit in a different part of the room" or "make sure that when class begins you are sitting next to someone you do NOT already know" (I then have them introduce themselves and talk with that someone new for 5 minutes about the assigned reading). Other times, I've had them "count off" and then asked them to sit with their group (we then do a group exercise for part of class and I don't let them return to their original seats following). I was worried about such strategies, because they were so evocative of, um, kindergarten, but they've actually proven very helpful, both for breaking up cliques and for getting students who don't talk much in class to be more interactive.

Apricot said...

Thanks, all. These are good suggestions!

Salmon Ella said...

Stand in front of them and give them the Evil Eye until they stop. The prof I TA for is a master at humiliating rude students in this manner.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Sorry I'm late to this conversation. What a really unfortunate situation, Apricot! I would hate it. And I woudn't have tolerated it this long. I like people's suggestions and hope to keep them in mind for future occurences that are, unfortunately, likely to happen.

Anonymous said...

I think that the larger problem is that the students doing this may not be shamed into silence by the evil eye or by being told that their behavior is rude.

Shark said...

YOU are in charge of the classroom. If a student or students want to cause a problem, YOU resolve it.
My favorite tactic was to call on the problem children repeatedly in every session. They get the hint rather quickly when they're (as usual) unprepared, and you verbally flail their hides. If necessary, after a couple days of this treatment, a casual discussion with them after class can make their options crystal clear.
Alternatively, just pick the ringleader and make him/her into toxic waste by showing how unprepared and idiotic he/she is, then calling on anyone who shares chat with him/her that class.
Why tolerate disrespect?

Dr. Delaney Kirk said...

I agree with the others--you cannot allow this to continue as it will (is) affecting you and your teaching. You will get to the point where you hate going into that classroom which means your confidence will be lower which then affects your lecture and the rest of the students. I would split them up. Or stop every time they are laughing and say that you see them talking to each other and assume they have a question. They will get the point.

Lucid Peacock said...

Sorry to post now on such a recent (and end-of-semester) entry, but I had an amusing experience that might give you some perspective.

I had a similar group of back-of-the-room gigglers. Beyond the giggling, I liked these students, and I was fairly certain that they were enjoying the class and learning from it. Several times I evil-eyed them, and several times I stopped the class to ask them if they wanted to share. None of these tricks stopped the giggles.

A month after class ended, I had a beer with one of the students (not too professional, maybe, but wtf). She told me that the source of the giggles was the regular appearance of the ass crack of a student who sat in front of them (brutally unprofessional, I know). The giggles were half amusement (apparently there were a plethora of text messages that went back and forth on the topic of the crack) and half anxiety ("Should we tell her about it? It's not exactly the same as tucking in her the tag that's hanging out of the back of her shirt..."). Nothing to do with me. Rude, yes, but very human, I think.