The Class Heckler

I recently experienced a student heckler – fortunately this was in a class I was covering, and so I don’t need to deal with this left-side driver regularly.

What is a student heckler? I’d say it’s a student who will distinguish him- or herself from the group with some kind of negative comment or action. Haven’t we all had that one who wants it known that whatever the group is doing is boring or useless, or that one who couldn’t care less about grammar but goes out of his way to find a counterexample to whatever you happen to be talking about. Certainly there are inquisitive individuals who really just want to know – they may go too far and end up sidetracking the lesson if you don’t deal with their questions appropriately – but these aren’t hecklers.

One time, my fairly good-natured but regular heckler came to class wearing sunglasses – and didn’t take them off the length of the class – possibly because he was stoned. Another heckler was a woman probably only a few years older than me who was a teacher of gifted students at an exclusive private school (“It’s a good job, but what can I teach them? They already know so much…”). One was an older man repeating beginner level by his own choice, and with his wife, after completing a class several levels higher a few years ago. I had my moment when he pointed to the floor and called it the ceiling. Ha! Wrong. Someone needs to work on his architectural English.

To be honest it’s a little unpleasant to think of these people now even though the stories sound a little silly and the people are clearly out of my way. Why are they hecklers? Maybe they are insecure and feel they need to prove something. Maybe that is just their personality. Or maybe, in some cases, they are right, and what they are saying is something others agree with but don’t want to go out on a limb and say. In a class setting, especially one like in EFL where there are constructive ways for students to give feedback, I’d certainly rather avoid a passive-aggressive heckler. But in life there are times when hecklers may just play a necessary role.