Part of keeping participants engaged involves using a creative delivery style. I like to use humor when appropriate. However, I did not expect a participant to turn the tables. One day while teaching, I was talking about some basic content, and a participant began adding one-liners after each key point I made. OK, so the first few were funny, but after a while his comments became distracting to me as I tried to continue delivering content. While I realized he was adding humor to the class, I also realized that he was taking it too far and it was quickly becoming distracting for the other learners as well.
I called a break and asked my class clown to join me for a cup of coffee. After a bit of small talk I said, “I’m really enjoying your sense of humor, but I’m beginning to get a bit sidetracked when you add a comment after each of my key points.” He pondered that for a moment and then replied “I’ve always taken on the role of class clown; I’m constantly telling jokes at the office and no one seems to mind.” He then reflected on the situation a little bit more and continued by saying, “Sometimes they ask me to tone it down. I guess I’m being a little over the top here.”
He assured me he would keep the jokes to a minimum from now on. I thanked him, but I also asked for his help with a mock interview I was planning on introducing after the break. With his outgoing personality, I knew that he would be perfect for the role. He was delighted to help me and did a fantastic job playing his part.
As I think back on this situation, I think was important to address the situation before my frustration built up even further. However, it was just as important to remain respectful and encouraging to my class clown. Taking his outgoing personality and channeling it into a positive rather than negative purpose allowed him to maintain his self-esteem while at the same time giving him the “air time” he seemed to need.
I think Mama would agree with the approach taken, do you?