There are two young lovers in one of my crowded calculus classes. Sometimes when I am explaining an idea I see they are kissing each other and some of the other students are watching them and pay no attention to what I am explaining. I love lovers but I think their behavior is interrupting my teaching and there are better places for showing love! I really don't know what I should do in this case because the situation is too strange and unusual and the usual managing approaches are not useful.

  • I cannot say "Quiet, please!" because they don't produce any noise.

  • I cannot say "Excuse me, please don't kiss each other!" because it is too ridiculous!

  • Maybe I can talk to them privately but I think it is a bit impolite because it is somehow related to their personal relations but I am thinking about this as a final solution.

  • Another possible solution which I have in mind is finding an appropriate related joke for telling in these situations to back the attention of the students to teaching subject and implicitly tell the lovers that they are interrupting my teaching. Do you have any suggestion for such a joke?

  • I fear to say "Please leave the classroom!" because few years ago in a same situation one of my colleges did this and the girl cried and said "you are a monster!" The story spread all over the university in the light speed and she became a hero! After that almost all students call that poor college "Prof. Monster" and all of his attempts for removing the tragedy from the minds were unsuccessful. Now some of the students tell this legend for the younger ones and say that they are proud of being there when "queen" named him "monster"!

Question. What is the appropriate approach for solving such a problem? Can you suggest any new solution? Were you in a similar situation? If yes, what did you do?

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    $\begingroup$ everybody not kissing raise your hand. Problem solved or exacerbated. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ had to sign up here just to vote up your comment James. So wise! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ I think that the idea of talking to the students privately is appropriate. I agree that it feels like an encroachment on their personal lives, but, to the extent that they have made their personal lives public, I think that it is an appropriate response. Further, any non-individual response (like an announcement to the whole class) seems to encroach more on their personal lives, by making them the focus of attention for the whole class. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 23:17

4 Answers 4


To approach this situation I would recommend you to imagine the same situation but that it is not kissing that is happening, but something else, say, two students were playing cards; so something that would also not cause any noise, but prevent the two from paying attention, and might also be disruptive to others in the class.

Perhaps, in this case you might not see a problem with the analogue of your second point, but also you do not really need to name the precise activity that is disruptive. Perhaps you cannot see if they are really playing cards or rather trading stickers, yet in any case you might remind them (and everybody) that they should pay attention to the course. You might not even have to address the two directly.

The same applies to your point three. Do not agonize about whether or not it is appropriate to talk to them about it due to the precise activity. You might just say something like: it seems like you two are not paying full attention during the course, it might be better you stop sitting next to each other during class.

What precisely you should do is I think difficult to answer in abstract, as it should depend in several ways on the general cultural context. Yet, in any case, I think you should not focus too much on the kissing aspect of it. But instead consider it at what it is: two students engage in some activity that stops them (the two) from paying attention to the course and that in addition might be disruptive for others as well. Then think about how you would handle this situation. (If you also have a problem with th more general situation, you might ask another question.)

  • $\begingroup$ It is a reasonable solution. Thanks. Also some of my colleges suggested some crazy ideas! For example assigning a "Romantic Homework" like calculating the volume of a three dimensional shape so similar to a "broken heart" formed by some analytic curves, etc. $\endgroup$
    – user230
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @SaintGeorg At a probability theory course you could assign calculating the probability of finding a soul mate. $\endgroup$
    – dtldarek
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ @dtldarek: A lovely problem. Thanks. :-) $\endgroup$
    – user230
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ You are welcome @SaintGeorg Personally I would not do thing with homework and so on. This could be considered fun and so on. But could also go badly. And, it is not quite clear what should be achieved by this. It seems the only way this could make them stop is if they feel quite embarassed by this; and I think it is not a good idea to try to embarass them publicaly. Conversely, if they do not feel embarassed perhaps they take this as some approval or encouragement. $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @quid, Thanks. What you mentioned in your comment is completely true. Exactly by this reason I am hesitated to examine this idea in practice. $\endgroup$
    – user230
    Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 15:18

I learn my students' names. (All 100 of them.) But I learn the names of "problem" students first! If you are reading a newspaper in my class (in ways visible to all) or constantly talking to a friend, or making out with your girlfriend, I make sure to get your name by the end of class. (I may ask you your name during class. Or, as a last resort, I may simply ask, as you leave, "I'm sorry, I don't know your name" and I make sure that I have it from then on.)

After that, I say things like, "Carl, are you with me here?" or "Leticia, are you following me?" Students react quite differently if you KNOW who they are.

Final step -- if this does not change behavior, I talk to students outside of class and simply explain that in class they are to focus on the material, engage in the lecture and worksheets, etc., and that their behavior in class needs to change. (But if I know the students' names, I usually don't have to get to this step.)

In larger classes, I use a seating chart to help me learn names rapidly. Then I practice the names as I return materials. I've twice taught classes of 150 or more and I learned all the names by the third week. In large classes, students appreciate me calling them by name when they raise their hand and it clearly improves both morale and student behavior.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to MESE Ken! Your suggestion is really new and amazingly friendly! I like it too much. It seems building a simple friendship with those students simply by learning their names could have a positive impact on them in my special case. Psychologically people react the admonitions more positively when the critic is their friend and tries to talk about an essential problem. $\endgroup$
    – user230
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ In my first class of a semester (I taught at a university), I said that I reserve the right to throw a marker at anybody reading a newspaper. In my second week of the class, I had to exercise that right... thank God the guy was sitting in the third row, so I did hit the newspaper. I think I knew the name by then, so I just said, "Joe, can you please work that problem out on the board for us?". No more newspapers in the room for the rest of the semester; nobody wanted to take chances. $\endgroup$
    – StasK
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @StasK One teacher of mine threw chalk-board erasers at people sleeping in class....he only needed to do it once or twice. He did warn us, though, that his aim was not that good....therefore it was in the best interest of anybody to wake up a napping neighbor :P $\endgroup$
    – Tutor
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 19:26

If somebody disrupts the class (be it playing on the computer, chatting with their neighbor, whatever) I just ask them to please take their disruptive activity elsewhere if they aren't interested in the class, out of respect for their classmates who are interested. Solves the problem nicely.

  • $\begingroup$ It is a good idea in a usual situation. But based on the local culture of our university I should be more soft and careful about this case. $\endgroup$
    – user230
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ @SaintGeorg, luckily such flagrant behaviour I've never even heard of here, true. I don't know what the classmates would do if it happened... $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 3:15

First, make a public announcement, preferably not while they are engaged in the activity so as not to draw attention to it: something like "I am not sure whether the people who become involved in certain extracurricular activities (e.g. poker games, courtship rituals, cell phone conversations) during class time would prefer privacy without interruption, public critique, or audience participation, but for any of these, there are better times and places than right here, right now. We are all supposedly here to study mathematics and most of the class wants exactly that. I do not wish to single out anyone for public embarrassment, but if they must continue, I must in turn insist that they find such a time and place where they will not distract the other students."

Then back this up with a private conversation with the offender(s): "The principle applies generally but I was particularly addressing you because you were doing thus and such which is disruptive." If they make excuses about other students, "I can watch so and so. But you were the one who stuck out". If the uninvolved ask for more details, address their own behavior (commendable or otherwise) and decline comment on other students. Those who were involved as either participants or observers already know or suspect. Those who weren't, don't need to.

Then present the offender(s) with a choice of alternatives: To concentrate on mathematics while they are in your class (which is what you would prefer) or have something less pleasant, (call them out during class, have them removed from class, or whatever disciplinary measures your institution has in place.)

Then follow up on whatever they have chosen. if they stop the disruptive behavior, problem solved. If they continue the behavior after agreeing to drop it or become defiant, let the consequences follow. Dropping the hammer before you have given warning, or being unduly severe makes you look unfair (with reason): Consequences that are more entertaining than serious and threats that you fail to back up make you look weak (also with reason).


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