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Friday, January 22, 2010

TGIF

The back story to the student I mentioned briefly yesterday is this:

In class, I was having students get into small groups. In order to assign them randomly to groups, I numbered them off. I told them to remember their number, and I'd tell them where to go. It's a method of arrangement that I believe elementary school children can follow.

As they are getting up and moving about to their respective groups, this guy comes up to me and asks, "What number am I?"

I say, "I don't know. I told you to remember your number."

Him, at a raised volume, clearly irritated: "I don't know what number I am! What number am I?!"

Calmly, I say, "I don't know what number you are..." and I was about to tell him to just wait a second, we'll see which group is missing a person when he yells, "Fuck this shit!" and stomps his foot and then literally storms out of the classroom, slamming the door behind him and everything.

Have you ever heard of something so absurd?

So, I was a little shaken by his outburst, but was able to settle the class down (they, of course, heard him and saw his irrational behavior) and we continued with our task.

About ten minutes later, he returned and asked if he could speak with me outside. So, outside the classroom, he apologizes to me for his behavior and explains that he has a medical condition that doesn't enable him to handle "stress" very well. Ummmm...getting into a small group was stressful? Uh-oh. So, I ask him first if his condition is registered with the office of disabilities, and he says "no," and then I ask him: "Based on the situation today, do you really think you're capable of successfully handling a college course?"

He tells me he wants to try because he needs to "prove to himself and to his doctors" that he can.

So, I told him I accepted his apology and was willing to give him a second chance; however, I made it clear that his outburst was offensive and unacceptable, and that if anything even remotely similar happened again, that's it. I'll withdraw him from the class. He accepted this. I asked if he wanted to re-join the class for the day, but he said no, he needed the time to cool off, which was smart of him.

Because I've never had anything like this happen in my classroom before, I sought out the dean of my department later in the day to discuss it with him and see if I should file some sort of written account of what happened mostly because I'm almost certain this student will not finish the term with me and I'd like some documentation about this event to support any action I may take in the future. The dean of my department said yes, I should go speak to student affairs and file the necessary paperwork documenting the experience, which meant sitting down with that dean and repeating my story again -- so, like I said, the incident not only disrupted that individual class, it also disrupted my office hours and took up most of my afternoon because of these brief meetings and taking the time to sit down and fill out the necessary paperwork.

So, that's the full story. Hard to believe that it was set in motion because he couldn't remember his number, right? Yes, clearly, this individual does suffer from some sort of "condition," but while I'm sympathetic to that, if he is unable to conduct himself in an expected matter, no matter the condition, he's unfit to be in my classroom. So, we'll see.

What sucks is that this is only the 3rd week of class! Oh well, now it's Friday! Thank god.

*And, yes, this is my 10th year teaching. I started teaching college classes as part of a graduate assistantship when I began graduate school when I was 22. I'll be 32 in April. Which is certainly young for higher ed, but I get told all the time that I look like a student -- this has its advantages with the students...most of the time.

29 comments:

eliza said...

Wow! Hang in there is all I can say, some people just don't know how to conduct themselves in day to day life..

Xenia said...

It may be just because I'm getting more cynical as I get older, but students these days seem to have more and more excuses for why they're unable to meet basic course requirements or have normal social interaction skills.

I say, unless you have a well documented medical condition or got hit by a bus, stop giving me b.s., man the hell up and learn how to manage your time and your behavior.

Hopefully that student drops the class soon and without further outbursts.

Heather Forcey said...

And I thought teaching 7th and 8th graders was hard! I hope this guy doesn't cause you any more stress this term. Smart to file the paperwork in case of future issues, though.

Abeyance said...

amazing! it sounds like you bounced back fairly quickly!

I have to say your "21 day" story is inspiring and I want to lose weight and be active but really lacking the motivation. Plus I tore ligaments in my knee the day after christmas and it has definitely put a wrench in my original plans to workout!

I currently blog about my life and career, but I am going to give myself 21 days for change as well. I hope I can be as slightly as successful as you have been! Thanks for your story!

teacherwoman said...

Sounds like things I deal with on a daily basis, but I work with 10 and 11 year olds. geez. Sorry it took up so much of your time... but this poor guy sounds like he really needs some help.

MCM Mama said...

Like teacherwoman, I see this kind of behavior a lot (sometimes from Jones except replace the cursing with crying), but I'm around kids from ages 4-8. Sheesh! Sounds like you handled it really well.

Jamoosh said...

His condition is that he spent his high school career playing world of warcraft and has no social skills, not to mention the attention span of a gnat.

Andy said...

That is crazy! Kids these days ;) I know when we were growing up there may have been only a couple people in our entire grade that had a problem like that, now it seems that every classroom has a child in a special situation. I am just so suprised that this is coming from an older child. I hope everything else is going well! Have a great weekend!

Viper said...

I'm sorry to hear that. Wow, 32 ... erm, I mean, crazy student. Yeah, the crazy student. Sorry to hear about the crazy student. Have a good weekend.

Marlene said...

Yikes... talk about keeping your day interesting. Sucks about all of the time you had to waste on it.

Katie A. said...

Wow. You handled yourself well. I am not surprised though, many young adults are just not ready to handle the demands of college. 18 is YOUNG! Sometimes I believe that a year off to find yourself and gather what you want to study should be mandatory. Happy Friday!

Jess said...

Umm yea something like that should definitely be registered with the office of disabilities. I hope he doesn't have any more outbreaks in your class or get any more belligerent.

Adam said...

Jeeeeeze. What a crazy. You probs did the right thing by creating a paper trail. God forbid he does anything REALLY crazy at least you will have done all you could.

TNTcoach Ken said...

Next time use smaller numbers????? Sounds like it's going to be an interesting semester..

inmytummy said...

If he freaked out from the "stress" of not remembering his number, how is he going to deal with real stress of tests and papers? Although, it's good that he apologized, at least

Rio said...

Good thing you documented the incident. You gotta protect yourself. If he can't deal with remembering a number, I'm not sure how he's going do deal with school, let alone, life.

Anonymous said...

Consider yourself lucky that you teach college and that you have the option to withdraw the student. I have been teaching middle school for 14 years, and this type of behavior usually results in a 3 day suspension. After that, the student is right back in the classroom.

I enjoy teaching, but it sure is challenging! My afternoon runs definitely help me blow off the stress (steam) of the day!

Wise choice to "cover" yourself with the paperwork. Hope it's smooth sailing from here on out!

Wes said...

hope for the best, prepare for the worst. You handled it very well :-)

shellyrm aka jogging stroller mama said...

My niece has just applied at several schools. She is a literature teacher (middle school). She would like to continue her education to be able to teach at the college level or be a part of the administration for a college. I will remind her that at the middle school level is is stuck with problem kids but at the college level she has more options!!

Unfortunately, this days you don't know if his medical condition is real or an excuse for bad behavior.

Great job handling a difficult day. I am glad he apologized.

Carolina John said...

that is a really unusual and intense situation jess! wow, you really handled that well.

RunnerGirl said...

Your student sounds like some of my 8th graders :)

Heather said...

What a pain in the ass! Have a great weekend.

Carly said...

You dealt with that situation great. I probably would have been arrested for punching him.

I hope it never happens again. Enjoy the weekend.

ajh said...

Thanks for filling in the rest of the story. Glad you documented it. That is always wise.

I have friend who also thinks the Greys characters are whiny but I just love them! But we are doing a battle of the books at school and I was one of the only people who didn't know what a buff was (the kids will wear them) because I don't watch Survivor! Pop culture!

Firefly's Running said...

Wow! I am glad that you handled that well. Personally, I think the student sounds a little immature and needs to get additional help with Office of Disabilities. Disability or no disability - his behavior is unacceptable.

N.D. said...

I had a student like this who was only in 9th grade. I came to find out later that he had total ISSUES he was dealing with at home that were causing him to act how he was. Do you think he has alot going on behind the scenes? The student that I had I really bonded and took under my wing by the end - but of course he is younger and still under his parents' home, etc.

runner26 said...

i think you handled this very well. he probably does have a "condition" and that's sad, but i think you were very clear about your expectations and the consequences if this (or anything like it) happens again. hopefully this will be the last of his inappropriate behavior.

Jessica said...

It sounds like he either has a brain injury or some mental illness--very typical of both populations (assuming he is being honest and is not just some dumb ass kid!)

TinaGirl said...

OMGoodness. So I'm a little Cynical like Xenia. I think most young people have a condition called "entitlement issues" where they think that they should get exactly what the want as soon as they ask (or demand) it. Good for you for making the choice to keep the class going.