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I am an associate lecturer and its my second term with the undergraduate students.

I noticed some of my students laugh when I teach. Its the most annoying thing I ever felt in my academic life so far. I always think, why some laugh while others appreciate my way of teaching? Its very puzzling. At the end of my first trimester I received a very positive feedback from the majority students. But just those couple of giggling students ruin my whole confidence.

I don't speak funny and I look average too but why why that happens with me?

Is it normal in academia? Did this happen to anyone else? And how I can deal with them?

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    One thing that's often effective is to simply stop talking and look at them until they stop. – Nate Eldredge Oct 23 '16 at 0:43
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    Frankly - if they indeed laugh at you, these students are still in their teenage years. In that case, they are immature and you, the lecturer, should not be perturbed by them. There is a saying, not sure where it comes from: "The dogs bark, the caravan passes." If they do not laugh at you, then it's not your problem. They are adults, and it's their time and concentration they are wasting. In short - no reason to worry, as long as it does not force you to speak louder. – Captain Emacs Oct 23 '16 at 2:08
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    What @NateEldredge said works like a charm. And in the cases where they continue to giggle (or talk, or whatever), simply ask them to leave the lecture on grounds of their disruptive behaviour. – 101010111100 Oct 24 '16 at 8:19
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    Check your trousers zipper. :) – Federico Poloni Oct 24 '16 at 8:22
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    I don't speak funny - Judging from your post, your use of English is not what I would call normal for a native speaker. I'm not saying this is the most likely scenario--I'm just trying to alert you to possibilities you're dismissing--but it's possible your way of speaking could be unintentionally amusing to some at times. (This is possible for both native and non-native speakers, and isn't something to necessarily take offense at.) – Kimball Oct 25 '16 at 2:16
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In my experience, there are some students who just cannot take class seriously. They may not even be laughing at you. Rather, they may be talking with a classmate and find what they are discussing amusing. They may not be paying attention to you at all. When they take a test and do not do well, they may react by thinking that is funny. If it bothers you enough, you should talk with the students after class and explain that their behavior is distracting to you, and probably to their classmates. This might appeal to whatever sense of fairness they may have. If they continue to be a distraction for you, a pointed remark about immature behavior may be appropriate, again after class. You may, if you wish, indicate that their behavior shows a lack of respect for you, the course, and their classmates.

I would not call the students out in class. I would also consult the department chair for suggestions on how to handle the situation.

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  • Thanks. Its helpful. I emailed one of the students so they know this now that its not acceptable. – Ahmad Oct 23 '16 at 10:35
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    @Ahmad - Better to avoid one-way communication about this. We don't know yet why they're laughing, but if it's because they find you pompous and/or out of touch with regular people, such an email could accentuate that reaction. – aparente001 Oct 25 '16 at 8:12
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    90% of the time the "someone else" isn't even thinking about you. For future approaches, I would not start with declaring what is acceptable or not, but invite the student into office hours, leading with "I've noticed you're doing a lot of giggling in class" and then waiting for their response. Response or no, let them off the hook softly, like "well, these things are occasionally unavoidable; but, please keep it below disruptive levels" This shows compassion and professionalism. That's often gets better behavior than authority. – Edwin Buck May 27 at 16:46
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Maybe ask one of your colleagues to attend a lecture and observe. They may be able to tell you what the students are laughing about. (Who knows... maybe you look like a TV star they all watch. Maybe you sound like a certain politician.) And your colleague may be able to tell you whether the same thing happens in other classes.

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  • It seems a good idea and I possibly wouldn't ask my colleagues but I have joined a public speaking club in my area which might able to give me a constructive feedback. – Ahmad Oct 25 '16 at 8:51
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Young people are always laughing. They could have an inside joke. They might have said they even love the way you say a certain word or it's from a song they like. It's usually not them focusing on you.

Young people will laugh in a beautiful way at things we've learned to find mundane, just an accent or if a word sounds like a dirty word. When I taught French my whole class laughed when I said dix-neuf (19) which only slightly sounded like "dees nuts" or "these nuts" from rappers as in when they might grab their crotch and say "suck these nuts."

I was relatively new but I was able to laugh it off and ask what the joke was. I pretended to laugh even though I just thought it was kinda dumb because I couldn't "hear" it like they could. They asked me to repeat it a few times. I humored them and they kind of forgot it about it but it was a chance to bond.

You never really know. It's OK to let loose a little and laugh to bond with students. I taught high school, so less formal, but I had no regrets. Or if they are laughing at you ... it could be a chance to laugh at yourself a little and show you're human if it's them just finding your accent cute or something.

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I am a sub and my 5th grade students started laughing, then looking at me and laughing again. I never figured out what they were laughing at. While they worked I decided to make myself a desk in the back and sit behind them. They immediately stopped laughing and started working. I can see their computers and now they are the ones looking over their shoulder, not me. Change your perspective or position that may help.

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