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.

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3 thoughts on “When one student drags the whole class down

  1. I have a few of those students too.
    Perhaps try having the problem student get up and stand against the wall while everyone continues. Continue class or play a game and completely ignore that student. Just go along with class. Or, send the student out into the hall (back to the wall) for 5 minutes. Explain to everyone why you’re doing this. That’s worked for me.
    Also, not to promote bribery, but you could use stickers or candy (I use M&Ms), but use that to reward good behavior. Again, explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. “So and so is getting candy because ___________. Good listeners do x, y and z.”

    Hopefully one of those works for you. It’s a tough situation, but I’ve seen it in my classes too.

    Ooh!! My most recent is that I’ll list homework pages on the board and tell them that if the class is good, the pages can go down, but if they’re bad and not listening, I’ll add more pages.
    That gets them on your side. If this class clown is getting them more homework, they’ll start to think his behavior isn’t all that funny anymore.
    Good luck!

    • Thanks for the suggestions; there are some great ideas here! I actually love the idea of candy. Not something I resort to often, but I have also found it can be successful. I may have to try that one again!

      • No problem!
        I bought a little holder for the candies (with a lid) from Home Plus and that’s more fun than carrying around a bag of candy. 🙂
        I don’t give them candy all the time though. I used it more at the beginning of the term with my rowdy kids and now I’m trying to use it less because they’re better at behaving on their own. (Sometimes. ha.)
        I do like to reward more for good behavior though. Seems to work best for me.
        Good luck!

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