Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock: A Lesson For Teachers Everywhere

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

The 94th Academy Awards will forever be known as the night when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock: be that staged or not as the case may be. In today’s blog post, I go through some things that teachers and schools can take from this fiasco when designing curricula, preparing young people for the future and discussing this issue if and when it arises in our conversations with students.

Lesson #1: Managing your emotions is a key life-skill

What I think became very apparent from this situation was that Will Smith’s actions were completely unacceptable. He went from smiling and laughing to full-fledged violence in less than a minute, and it was completely unjustified. As teachers, our message to students has to be that violence is a never the right way to deal with people who offend us.

As a consequence of this outburst, Will’s reputation has been tarnished for life – a reality that will affect him in many and varying ways. For the majority of our students, (who, of course, will not become A-list celebrities), a moment of public rage like this can be career-destroying or business-destroying, and could even land them with a lengthy prison sentence.

Our students need to know that.

Our students really need to be made aware that we live in a heavily-surveilled society – everyone has a portable camera and microphone at-hand these days. All it takes is one emotional flare-up recorded on a smartphone to cause a person to lose everything – and most of us cannot recover easily from such a loss. In fact, most people may never fully recover from such an extreme deterioration in personal circumstances.

What’s also interesting to me is the emotional responses we see from Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith in the limited footage we have:

  • Chris didn’t swear back at Will, and didn’t hit him back. He remained calm, attempted to brush it off and tried to keep the audience entertained. In this, Chris demonstrated excellent self-control and should be commended for his resolve and professionalism, in my opinion.
  • Jada seemed quiet and resolute throughout, although it was pretty obvious that she wasn’t happy with Chris’s joke (which, of course, is understandable).

Perhaps this whole Will Smith vs. Chris Rock incident would serve to be a great case study to feature in school textbooks on mindfulness and self-discipline: children could, certainly, learn a lot about the reputational consequences of not monitoring one’s emotions, and the fallout that can happen when we act by reflex-action, rather than by enlightened self-interest.

Lesson #2: Marriage often involves a power-dynamic, and comes with legal entanglements (and children should be taught about that)

Will’s almost immediate change of character from a laughing, happy audience member to an aggressive protagonist: prompted, it seems, by the look on his wife’s face when the joke didn’t quite resonate, really set alarm bells off in my mind. It seemed to me as though Will Smith was more afraid of facing the wrath and scorn of his wife when he got home (for not standing up for her), than face the consequences of an abusive physical and verbal tantrum for all and sundry to see at the Academy Awards that night.

This points to an apparent power-dynamic that’s in-play within Will and Jada’s marriage, and most analysts would agree that it is not Will who holds the role of leader in the relationship. This appears to be backed up by events that ran prior to Sunday’s debacle:

  • 1997: Will and Jada got married, with Jada apparently admitting in a 2019 People Cover Story that she didn’t really want to tie-the-knot in the first place – she stated that “I never wanted to get married. But my mother was like, ‘You have to get married’ — she’s so old-school — and Will wanted a family. So I said, ‘All right, maybe it’s something I should do.’”. Jada was pregnant with their first child, Jaden, and seemingly felt under tremendous pressure to get married at that time.
  • 2020: The famous Red Table Talk happened, in which Jada confirmed that she had had a relationship with August Alsina, claiming that she was separated from Will Smith at the time. Will Smith seemingly sits through the talk looking like a deer in headlights, which subsequently becomes a viral meme. Jada described her situation with August as an ‘entanglement’.

We’ll never know the full details of what Jada and Will are going through, nor have been through in the past – that’s personal to them. However, as public figures, they automatically act as role-models for young people and as teachers we should address some key takeaways.

Children should be taught about what marriage actually is – from both a legislative and religious standpoint. Children need to know what the legal consequences of marriage and divorce are, particularly:

  • What alimony is, and why it is paid
  • The fact that mothers overwhelmingly receive majority child custody in the case of a divorce
  • What the law says about adultery – some countries and regions are harsher than others
  • What the law says about cohabitation
  • How marriage affects immigration status
  • How assets may be divided in the case of a divorce
  • What a pre-nuptial agreement is

Many men and women feel trapped in their marriages because the consequences of divorce can be terrifying to contemplate. Does Will Smith feel trapped in his marriage – unable to leave a miserable situation because the financial and emotional fallout would be too great? We’ll never know. However, what is true is that most children leave school knowing NOTHING about family law as it pertains to marriage.

Not knowing this information is surely a massive disadvantage. How can any young adult perform a cost/benefit analysis of matrimony if he or she doesn’t know all of the facts beforehand? Around 50% of marriages end in divorce, for example. Would you jump out of an airplane if you knew that the parachute only had a 50% chance of opening?

Another aspect is the reasoning one uses to enter a marriage in the first place. Is Jada’s justification – feeling under pressure and being pregnant at the same time – a good excuse for getting married? How do we approach that with children and young adults? What are the consequences when we enter into life-contracts out of fear of upsetting our friends and family?

Lesson #3: Sometimes ‘sorry’ just isn’t enough to bail you out of trouble

Will Smith did eventually apologise for his actions in an Instagram post, stating that “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,”.

Will Smith has a net worth of around $350 million at the time of writing. He can afford to move on after a brief apology. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

Our students need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Will and Chris’s exchange was a freak incident – an altercation between two famous, rich people. For our students, an assault may not be forgiven by a simple apology. Most of our students will be destroyed financially by a criminal record – unlike Will Smith, who would have walked away just as rich, perhaps richer due to the publicity, had Chris Rock had pressed charges through the LAPD.

The bottom-line

Our consensus as teachers has to be that what Will Smith did was completely unacceptable. Violence is never the correct way to respond to people who offend us.

Recommended further reading

What Should Schools Teach?

Can Sympathy and Empathy Be Taught?

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

How to Create a Calming Classroom Corner

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

A calming corner, sometimes referred to as a mindfulness corner, is a special space in your classroom where students can go when they need to manage their emotions. Calming corners are becoming more and more popular as they help students implement emotional and social learning skills.

The ideal calming corner should offer a wide variety of sensory tools. Some children benefit from reading books where characters resolve a conflict, while others prefer cuddling stuffed animals or playing with fidget toys. From breathing techniques and stretching guides to bubble wrap and coloring books, there are nearly endless options out there to help the kids in your class understand that their feelings are valid. Get inspired to create your own calming corner with the suggestions outlined in today’s blog post.

Strategy #1: Design the space carefully

  • Think about where exactly the calming corner should be. Perhaps a location at the back of the room will work well so that the children who go there do not feel as though everyone is looking at them. Perhaps a location to the side of the main class is useful, so that the teacher can easily supervise the students in both the calming corner and the main class effectively at the same time. The space should be well-lit (natural light is best) and comfortable. There will be some types of classroom in which a calming corner might not be feasible (e.g. a Design Technology workshop, or a Science laboratory), so in those cases a designated classroom where the students can be sent to, or perhaps a calming corner in the school library, might work best.
  • Choose comfortable furniture. As a bare minimum you will need a place where students can sit comfortably, and the size of this furniture will greatly depend on how much space you have. Bean bags can work well, and a small desk or table, or perhaps a lap-tray, can be useful if you want your students to complete some kind of reflection sheet (more on this later).
  • Include sensory tools. There are many to choose from, but the most popular include stress balls, Sensory Stixx (which are a type of fidget toy), fidget spinners, cuddly toys and old-style handheld games like gel mazes, pinball games and other push-button manual toys. I wouldn’t recommend modern computer games as these days they tend to be designed to get players addicted and can cause more aggression feelings, rather than encouraging relaxation. However, I do believe there’s something to be said for having a retro-computer (not internet connected) such as an Atari ST or BBC Microcomputer with old-style games loaded onto the system, for students to enjoy playing. These systems can be picked up relatively cheaply on sites such as eBay, and the games tend to be simpler and more kid-focussed than modern multiplayer, online games, such as Fortnite.

Strategy #2: Include self-reflection tools and activities

Children who wish to go to a calming corner should be encouraged to reflect upon their emotions and thoughts. This is really good for building self-awareness, which is desperately needed in today’s world.

“An amazing book.”

There are a number of well-established self-reflection tools out there already, and I personally would recommend the following:

  • Learning journals: A simple notebook for students to write down their individual thoughts and feelings can be a great way for them to see the progress they have made over time. I would recommend giving each student a personal notebook, which could be kept by the student in their bag at all times, or by the teacher. In addition, an online journal via Google Docs or Slides could also work well, and students who go to the calming corner could spend time adding their thoughts and feelings to the journal. I’ve written at length about how I use learning journals to help students prepare for exams before, but the same principles can definitely be applied to situations in which students are reflecting on their feelings and thoughts.
  • This great blog post by Martyn Kenneth goes through some useful acronyms that guide students through a self-reflection process. You may also wish to use his free pdf Reflective Journal for Students, and keep copies of this in your classroom’s calming corner.
  • Get your classroom calming students to create a ‘Me Tree’ – a very effective and fun self-analysis tool. Follow the steps outlined here.

Strategy #3: Teach students about the Classroom Calming Corner

The Mindfulness in Schools Project is still a relatively new national initiative in the UK, and the majority of schools internationally are still novices when it comes to getting students to reflect meaningfully on their thoughts and emotions. For this reason, many of the children in our care are simply not used to carrying out detailed introspections, and will need training in order to do so.

Encourage students to visit the classroom calming corner regularly at first – perhaps on a rotational basis, and use the self-reflection tools outlined to get students to reflect on their learning, thoughts and (later) emotions. Once this habit has been established, and any taboo/stigma has been removed, allow students the freedom to choose when they wish to go to the classroom calming corner. Of course, this will take vigilance on the part of the teacher as we don’t want 20 students going to the corner when a challenging task is given in-class, for example. A good way to overcome this might be to set a limit on how many students can be in the corner at one time, and schedule times in your lessons when students can have a menu of activities to choose from – one of which being ‘reflection time’ in the classroom calming corner.

Recommended further reading

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Some Useful Self-Reflection Tools for Students and Teachers

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Self-reflection can be a great way to maximize the progress and attainment of our students, but how exactly do we encourage this introspection? Are there some key tools that teachers can use to facilitate this process? Today, I’ve invited Martyn Kenneth (an international educator of 15+ years, educational consultant, tutor/coach, an author of children’s books and textbooks and the creator and host of ‘The Lights Out Podcast) to share his insights and tips for educators.

At the end of this blog post you will find a free pdf version of Martyn’s Self-Reflection journal for students. No sign-up required: just click and download.

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.

John Dewey

Anyone who works in an IB school will have heard the word ‘reflection’ a thousand times. But in a world where learners’ schedules are being filled to bursting point with more ‘knowledge’ to be tested, are we sacrificing time that could be spent on reflecting on past experiences for time spent absorbing knowledge for the future?

We have to look back to move forward. By this I mean we, as teachers and learners, have to purposefully set a time when we look back on our journey up to the present in order to set an intention for future goals and actions. Without this intention we cannot set a direction and without a direction there cannot be a destination. Or at least there cannot be a destination that is reached with precision, purpose and efficiency. It is this precision, purpose and efficiency that gets you further faster – milestone after milestone, chapter after chapter or page after page. And isn’t this what we all want for our students – for them to grow and develop to their full potential?

It wasn’t until I went from EAL teacher to IB PYP teacher that this word ‘reflection’ really hit home. I used to be a great believer in task-based learning (TBL) and would happily conclude that learning was happening in the classroom as a result of a run of tasks being completed in sequential order. I never used to schedule or plan-in time for reflecting on the tasks that have been completed.

“A BRILLIANT book for teachers”

The school where I work now utilizes the inquiry-based method with the PYP framework. If you look at any inquiry-based approach you will find that reflection usually sits at the center of the inquiry cycle (just Google ‘inquiry cycle). Not to say that task based learning lessons are ineffective: on the contrary they can be highly effective if they are consciously and intentionally used as a part of the inquiry cycle. But as a learning experience they are just one part of the puzzle. Reflection plays an equal if not more important role than the tasks themselves.

Reflection informs teaching and planning, too as it is only when we reflect that we can truly plan for success in the student.

An activity that I like to do with secondary students is related to having them reflect on what has happened through the week. It’s based on 6 initials.


It is a reflection based activity that asks students to write for a maximum of ten minutes about their week.

M – Memorable Moment

E – Emotions

N – News

D – Driving motivation

T – Time travel

G – Goals

I provide sentence stems to begin with such as:

M – The most memorable moment of my week was __________________________. This was memorable for me because _____________________.

E – A time this week when I felt very __________ (emotion)___________ was when _______________. This was caused by ______________

N – In the news this week I saw/read about__________. I was interested in this story because _____________

D – This week I have been motivated by __________. This has motivated me because _________________

T – If I travelled back to last class the thing I would change/do differently would be __________. Making this change would have made my week different by______________

G – My goal for the following week is ________________ To achieve this goal I will _____________.

[Optional – (I achieved/didn’t achieve my goal last week because_______)]

I have found that having learners do this exercise is really beneficial for everyone. It allows the teacher to find out more about his or her students, it can be a platform for deeper discussions and conversations, it is a quiet time at start of class to get learners focusing and ready and it can also be a time for setting and achieving small goals.

I had actually used another set of initials for a couple of years before changing to the MENDTG in the new year.

My previous reflection activity was:

B – The Best thing of the week for me was…

W – The Worst thing of the week for me was…

L – Something I learned this week was…

F – Something I failed at was…

G – This week I am grateful for…

G – My goal for the week ahead is...

As educators we now have to reflect on our practice and ask ourselves serious questions like: Am I teaching the best I can? Am I providing the best environment for learning to happen? And have I planned well enough with appropriate assessments that can be evidence to inform teaching and learning going forward?

I think our practice can change significantly if we think about the quote by Dewey and focus more attention on the recall of memory about a learning experience and less on the focus of information to be recalled at a later date.

Download Martyn’s free self-reflection journal for students as a pdf here (no sign-up required, just click and download):

Thoughts and reflections from Richard James Rogers:

Thank you, Martyn, for this detailed and useful article. I love both acronyms and the Reflective Journal that you’ve kindly shared with us all is a great tool. I will be sharing this with my colleagues at school and using it in my role as a form-tutor – I think it’s a great weekly exercise that can have a profound and positive effect on many students’ lives.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news.