When one student drags the whole class down

Is it fair to place the blame on one student? I’m fairly convinced if he weren’t in the class, the atmosphere of the class would be infinitely more pleasant. The problem is this – I can tell he doesn’t care about the class at all. He’s also developed a position in the class as the class clown, so the other students love him and find him hilarious. I used to find him hilarious, too, until the 20th joke about changing the clock behind my back so I would think class is over.

And, you see, when he doesn’t want to do the work, no one wants to do the work. He rolls his eyes, and suddenly, they all seem far less excited about the activity I’ve just introduced. I call him out for his behavior, and everyone in class rushes to his defense. If they were forced to choose between him and me, they’d choose him every time.

I guess I’m posting more out of frustration than anything; I don’t know that there is a solution to this problem at this point. We have about 2 more weeks of class, so it’s unlikely anything will change between now and then.

In my experience, I’ve found that there are always 1 or 2 students in every class that set the tone for the rest of the class. Finding out who those students are and how to appeal to them is part of ensuring a successful classroom environment. And, of course, every so often, there’s a mystery student, a student even I cannot win over. That’s usually one of my biggest strengths as a teacher, that I can motivate even the most difficult cases. When I reach a road block, it makes me feel like a brand new teacher all over again, unsure of myself and constantly frustrated.