If you've been in public school classrooms through the years, as a student, or especially as a teacher, you've seen this guy's act several times. I use the term guy because that's almost always the case. He's male — at least to all appearances.
His performances commonly begin with the onset of puberty and can persist for several years — with Freudian juice flowing through his incredibly very intelligent and powerful brain ... and elsewhere. That's to say he lusts for attention, not just from giggly girls in class and elsewhere but especially from testosterone-competing boys.
Sometimes the behavior ends by eighth grade or high school graduation. But it can persist until death. Testosterone is one of the more serious and persistent addictions, particularly for males with social or financial power ... or a lust for either. Well, back to the subject ...
It helps the kid's project if the kid comes from a powerful family in town — especially a wealthy one, one where he has inhaled the aroma of privilege and importance. Commonly, his attire is chosen for visual impact. His grooming might be ostentatious; that is, showy. You know, “Look at me.”
Most often, if there's no designated seating chart (at least to begin with), the kid will self-select a chair in the rear of the classroom — usually, but not always — in a middle row. Likely with an admiring buddy on one or both sides eager to respond appreciatively, and trigger applause or hoots from others in the class more attuned to showmanship than scholastic substance.
The back-of-the-class location is correctly calculated to draw classmate attention backward; that is, disruptively away from the scheduled and planned focus of the class, and toward the self-inflated guy who likes to inspire giggles and hoots — or even groans. The tactic usually works. Ignoring the problem becomes impossible. So, OK, now what?
A common first step is to establish a carefully considered seating chart: Move the attention-addict to the front row: (a) within arms reach of the teach, (b) with his supporting friends (usually supportive males) at a distance from him and from each other. Sometimes that is a significant warning that he could be headed for trouble if he doesn't behave. Sometimes it works.
If needed, a second step might be to invite him to teach the class what he thinks is more relevant and missing. Have him come to the instructor's podium while the instructor sits attentively as a student to listen to the disrupter's knowledge of the subject. That can catch him off guard and eagerly return to his seat, a little deflated. Sometimes that can work.
A third, stronger step can be effective, especially if the classroom door is directly to the right or left of the instructor. (If not, the janitor can re-arrange the desks or chairs beginning the next day.) Before class, place a chair out in the hallway, where only the teacher can view the problem student, and classmates cannot. Nor can he see them. The point here, again, that the attention-addict thrives on attention. (You knew that, right?)
It is wise to inform the administrator (and the school cop, if you have one) of your strategy. Also, now that cellphones, iPads and smartphones are the rage, program yours so that one-touch of a key will send the alarm so that the kid can be hauled away down to the principal's office. Inform the student his parents or significant others have been notified.
Two strategies remain, both of which should again be explained to parents (or sometimes the wife). Place the problem-student in isolation (like a closet) for one or more days, up to a week. That would be a quiet place with no interaction with other students (or anyone else, except maybe a bored staffer who brings himself a book to read and doesn't respond to the kid's blab).
If none of that works, send him to the school psychologist. If that's no help, impeach him before the school board … or wherever. Push the big button. Boot him. Maybe there's a job for him on reality TV. Or Fox and Friends. There, it's easy to change channels.
Otherwise, assuming he's a freshman, we could be stuck with his attention-desperate theater for three more years.
Bob Hooper, a fourth-generation western Kansan, is a former public school teacher who writes from his home in Bogue.