by J J Cohen
No I'm not talking medieval chivalry here, I'm speaking about classroom behavior. Teach long enough and you'll face someone or some small group who derive pleasure from disruption. Such misbehavior can be quite serious (restraining order, anyone? It happens, I can tell you from my experience as chair), but most of the time antics and shenanigans are simply annoying, breaking the rhythm that a good class relies upon. Dr Virago posted a bit about the topic recently; the discussion and its comments are well worth your reading.
I've faced the issue infrequently. I've usually solved the problem by speaking to the student privately -- or sometimes, if it is egregious, stopping the class so that everyone is focused upon the perp and saying, slowly but firmly, "Could you and I speak immediately after class today?" Once or twice I've had a sleeper, in which case I usually walk over to the person and stand in front of them while lecturing. If they don't wake up, I stop until they do, look at them, and then continue. The second time it happens I use my "Could you and I speak immediately after class today?" line. I've never had to do this more than once.
Recently, though, I began teaching a large lecture course, ninety students. The potential for distraction in a classroom that large is immense, especially because many have laptops and several are not actually all that interested in the course topic. So I composed a prophylactic code of courtesy and incorporated it into the syllabus. I read the code to them on the first day of class, and remind them of its contents during the third week, when we are well in our routine. I stress to them that I wrote it not to be punitive or because I am distrustful, but because I care so deeply about the course: I give the class my all and I want it to be one they always remember, and I need the students to be as committed to me as I am to them. That is, I stress its positive effect and play down its school marmishness.
I will paste my code of courtesy below, but let me ask: how do you handle disruptive behavior? do you include a code of courtesy on your syllabus? does it work? do you ban laptops?