INTERVIEWS: How should teachers deal with disruptive students?

By Shannon Matloob, 16, Beverly Hills HS
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Shannon is going to try forgiving and hugging disruptive students this year.

Every class has that person who makes witty comments to the teacher—comments that really have no point but that make the class laugh.

“Do you have any children?” asked a girl in my chemistry class early last year.

“Yes. And I have grandchildren,” the teacher replied. He seemed pleased to see that one of his students was actually concerned about his family.

“Can I marry your grandson?” When she asked this I thought that she had met his grandson before and thought he was attractive.

“Well, he’s 3.”

“That’s OK. It’s very Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher.”

I’ll admit, that was a tad funny. By mid-October, she was the girl who said funny things that broke the silence of a boring class.

But by November, these comments were five times a class and my friends and I (the ones who paid attention to the teacher) were getting annoyed. She wasn’t funny. (Like the time my teacher said something about carbohydrates and then she blurted out, “Carbs are bad for you, Mr. K.”) She would take away time that we needed for review to tell the class another story. I wished there were an off button.

They’re starving for attention

At my school these people are called “attention whores.” It’s like that girl on MySpace who has so many pictures of herself that it’s obvious she was in the bathroom taking the pictures until her mom knocked on the door and asked her what she was doing. That’s a “camera whore.” Same with the person who posts these pathetic bulletins: “I just took a ton more pictures of myself! Feel free to leave a comment … or a hundred! Thanks a bunch!” That’s a “comment whore.” An attention whore will do anything for attention—interrupt class, a meal or any conversation anywhere to say something absolutely stupid.

And I’m not the only one annoyed with attention whores. In my friend’s chemistry class this past summer, this one girl would say “uh-oh, hot dog” to EVERYTHING the teacher said. After he said, “This is a covalent bond,” she would say “uh-oh, hot dog.”

“This is an ionic bond.”

“Uh-oh, hot dog.”

My friend eventually got angry and told her to shut up. “Hot dog” girl did … but only for the rest of that period. Attention whores never quit.

You may know attention whores by another name—class clowns. Class clowns do the same thing as attention whores, except class clowns are usually guys. The class clown in my chemistry class once tried to “fix the fan” by putting his finger in it. The cover of the fan was off, and I don’t know how sticking his finger inside it while it was moving was fixing it, but he did it anyway. When he realized having his finger in the midst of extremely fast-moving blades wasn’t as harmless as he thought, he let out a high-pitched scream and his face turned purple. The funny thing is, he wasn’t hurt. He got a minor electric shock. Naturally, we all turned around to see what was going on. He was either really, really stupid and actually thought he wouldn’t get hurt or he knew that we’d all turn around if he screamed and we’d give him his 15 seconds of fame for being an idiot. Nobody is stupid enough to put his finger in a moving fan, so I’m going with the second one.

The worst thing about attention whores is that they’re not creative or original. They have their basic 10 stories that they use every year. They’re that person who keeps complaining about how much his/her accomplishments (varsity sports, AP classes or community service) created extra responsibilities for him/her that the rest of us couldn’t understand. After a while, it’s like copy and paste every single day.

We need more strict teachers

Despite my objections, I never say anything to an attention whore’s face. I’m too scared they’ll take it the wrong way and become my enemy. I can’t just go up to someone and tell her to shut up. She probably has a lot of friends who could make my high school career hell. Not only that, but after I made her the enemy, she’d only want to bother me more.

Attention whores mostly exist in classrooms with the type of teacher who won’t notice your bathroom break was 47 minutes. I had one teacher who was the epitome of a teacher who didn’t care. One day in the middle of the year, that teacher decided that all the “delinquents” who spoke out for no reason would have two points taken off their participation grade for every interruption. I thought, finally the most disruptive student would shut up and let us go through a lesson without hearing her voice. Boy, was I wrong.

She kept interrupting and the teacher did nothing. So I said to my friends, “I love how he doesn’t take points off her grade when he just said he would.” Next thing I know, I have my name up on the overhead with a “–2” next to it. I was furious. After class I spoke with the teacher and explained to him I was only complaining about his hypocrisy. He said he’d add back the two points this time, but next time I’d have to speak with him if I had a problem. I agreed. Sometimes, the teacher is too oblivious to realize what’s going on and needs a little hint from a student to do something about it.

Thankfully, there are those teachers who know exactly what an attention whore is and they squash them in the beginning of the year. My math teacher sophomore year had a very good technique that I noticed some other teachers use. When someone would talk she’d stop everything and just wait for that person to stop talking. After a few cold stares the first few months, we all learned that her class was not one to use for attention seeking.

I’d much rather have the scary teacher with the class that doesn’t dare make a noise than the laid-back teacher with multiple attention whores. I guess silence in a boring class really isn’t that bad.