Intentional Indecencies: Controlling a class of boys

by epi on June 1, 2012

Q: I have several middle school students in my computer class-all boys-who think it is a big joke to ‘pass gas’ in class. How do I explain to them that this is disgusting?

A: You explain to them that good manners means that you don’t intentionally do anything that offends another. This means you don’t say unkind things, nor do you create sounds or odors that are bothersome to others. You add that those who do this unfortunately are not well-mannered, thoughtful or kind and you are sure that none of them would like to be thought of as crude, or rude, which is just what they are when they pass gas on purpose. You might even explain that gas is created because of certain foods, and the way that those foods pass through one’s digestive tract, and can take the form of burping, or passing gas rectally. Therefore, there is nothing amusing about it, it is simply the body at work, and just as one would say “excuse me” if he inadvertently burped in class, he would do the same if he inadvertently passed gas. You expect, in the future, that anyone who passes gas does so without doing it intentionally, and that when he does, he excuses himself, and that you hope they are grown up enough that they don’t laugh when this happens, because it is not funny. It is just the body eliminating excess pressure. You can even add that anyone who does laugh will be expected to conduct research on how gas is created in the body and write a 500 word report to be graded by their classroom teacher, the principal and you, on the process, to benefit everyone else and to help them understand that there is nothing the least amusing about it.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Chara Watson June 1, 2012 at 12:47 am

The truth is that they know it’s disgusting and rude- that’s why they do it.
Middle school boys are especially incorrigible and the only way to deal with this is to hit it head on and with no embarrassment. The threat of extra work might actually discourage the behavior, but only if they don’t see you become squeamish or embarrassed about it. If you show that it embarrasses you, they are likely to milk it for all it’s worth.


Winifred Rosenburg June 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

I’ve read that one is actually not supposed to say “excuse me” or anything else when he passes gas because it is (hopefully) not voluntary so everyone, including the person who passed gas, is supposed to pretend nothing happened.


Zakafury June 1, 2012 at 10:49 am

I agree with both of the previous comments.

It is a very dated approach to assign a punitive essay. This practice sends the message that even the teacher feels report writing is a punishment.

Holding the offenders after school for the conversation is a punishment appropriate to both the infraction and its motivation – it will not waste class time or give them much immediate attention.

At the next incident, I would tell the boys “Adam, Brian, and Charlie, you need to see me after school. We will discuss responding to bodily functions, and appropriate classroom manners. If this continues, I will have Mr. Principal involved as well.” If this is not a school activity, but rather a voluntary class, parents could be involved instead of an administrator.

When choosing the gender of the principal for my example, it crossed my mind that having a male role model present for the discussion might make the boys take it more seriously.


P Wright June 2, 2012 at 7:32 am

Yes, it is very old fashioned to use writing as a punishment (and also involve the principal -this shows the teacher cannot handle it and the kids will figure that one out fast). Discipline means you learn something, punishment means one is just punished (and then usually does it again).


Jerry June 2, 2012 at 9:06 am

I disagree with the semantics. You punish someone just enough so that they learn there are consequences to unpleasant behavior and know not to do the offensive behavior again. (Any more punishment crosses the line to vengeance, which is verboten.) Discipline should have similar goals but, at least to me, suggests a physical punishment, such as a nun slapping your hand with a ruler.

I like the 500 word essay, though. Alternatively, make the ring-leader stand out in the hallway and he won’t be able to participate in what is traditionally a very fun class.


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