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The class clown.

HE MAY BE CHARISMATIC, ENTERTAINING and even gifted--but he can also be a real pain in the neck for the teacher. He is the class clown (and, yes, the experts say the class clown is most often a boy). As funny and likeable as he may be, the class down can also be a huge distraction in the classroom if his antics are not reined in. In a career and technical education lab filled with equipment, such behavior can not only be disruptive, it can be dangerous, especially if the class clown is into physical comedy.

Class clowns can actually be funny, and it is okay--and honest--for the teacher to laugh. In fact, if you have a budding Robin Williams in your class, it may be nearly impossible not to giggle or even guffaw, but the levity has to be brief, or the teacher risks losing complete control of the classroom. So the Web site Discipline Help says, relax and enjoy the humor for a moment and then get the class back on track. Some of the responses suggested include using an "enough is enough" hand signal if words don't work, or responding with silence until the student settles down.


Rama Pemmaraju Rao, a board-certified physician in psychiatric and internal medicine, like most experts, says that the class clown's incessant need for attention may arise from a disruption at home, such as a death or divorce. It can also be compensation for learning difficulties or a lack of adequate social skills. It may be easier to see that class clowns suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than to see that they suffer from depression, which may be the case, says Rao.

One thing most experts seem to agree upon is that the class clown should not be ignored. Dr. Ken Shore's Classroom Problem Solver on the Education World Web site suggests taking the student aside and finding out "in a calm, emotionally neutral manner--without anger or sarcasm" why he is acting up. He needs to understand that there is a time and a place for clowning around. You can even develop a nonverbal signal to be used in class to let him know when he is crossing the line.

A continuance of the disruptive behavior, or something the teacher might have learned during the meeting with the student, might signal a cry for help. As Rao notes, it is important "to understand what is sometimes behind the mask and costume of the class clown." What is behind the mask could require medical attention or psychiatric intervention.

Another frequently offered suggestion for dealing with class clowns is to transfer or redirect their behavior into something more positive. Your school's drama department could benefit from the class clown's performance abilities, and he in turn could find an appropriate time and place in school for his actions. Community theater groups might provide other good outlets.

Career and technical education programs in arts, audio visual technology and communications could also be good places to channel the energy and creative talents of the class clown. The personality of a class clown could serve him well in marketing, once he learns how to use his power in a more disciplined way.

Being a class clown certainly does not mean you can't succeed in life. Some famous class clowns include Jim Carrey and Henry Winkler. Carrey began making classmates laugh in elementary school, but dropped out after ninth grade because of his family's dire economic situation, which seems to be a clear demonstration of the theory of the pain behind the mask of the clown. By 15, the high school dropout was performing in comedy clubs, but went on to acting school and reportedly remains a voracious reader. Winkler--a past speaker at the ACTE Convention--represents the theory of the class clown hiding a learning disability, because he says his behavior was a result of his dyslexia. He not only went on to earn a Ph.D. in Hebrew literature, but is the co-author of a series of books about a boy with a learning disability. Janeane Garofalo, who admits to having bad poor social skills in high school, is also rumored to have been a class clown, so not all of them are boys. Comedian George Carlin even recorded a famous (or infamous, depending upon your viewpoint) comedy album called Class Clown.

And then there is book author and humor columnist Dave Barry. According to the bio on Barry's Web site, "He attended public schools, where he distinguished himself by not getting in nearly as much trouble as he would have if the authorities had been aware of everything. He is proud to have been elected Class Clown by the Pleasantville High School class of 1965."

Barry went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

So just remember, as you deal with the fun and the frustration that come with having your very own class clown: you could someday wind up in his standup comedy routine or his humor column. Teaching is serious business, but sometimes you just have to laugh.

Funny Business--Serious Advice

Here are some articles for more insight into the behavior of the class clown and advice on how to deal with it.

Discipline Help

Behavior Information: The Class Clown The%20Class%20CIown&step=behavior

Dr. Ken Shore's Classroom Problem Solver: The Class Clown

"The 'Class Clown'--Peeling Back the Mask and Costume"
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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