Help!: Behavior issue at the college level

Discussion in 'College' started by porque_pig, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Feb 25, 2011

    In one of my university level Spanish courses, I have had some behavioral issues from one specific student. I had her in class last semester, and she was a major distraction. I always start class by asking how the students are feeling that day. One day, this student responded (in English) with, "Terrible, because I hate this class." I calmly told her she was welcome to leave and take an absence for the day, but she got embarrassed and started shouting, "Is she getting smart with me?" I motioned for her to come sit at the seat directly in front of me. Once she was seated, she took out her cell phone and began texting. I worried that any more confrontation in class would be a huge distraction to the rest of the students (I only see them three times a week for fifty minutes, and any distraction will put them SERIOUSLY behind on the syllabus). I left her alone, and she calmed down. After class, I brought her to my office and talked with her about her concerns/insecurities in class. Things got better as the semester progressed.

    This semester, things have gotten a bit worse. I have had several discussions with this student about her texting habits in class. Also, in the middle of class today while I was speaking to the class as a whole, this student shouted, "This is my worst class. I HATE Spanish!" I gave her "the look" for about 5 seconds and then started students on a pair activity (all I had to do was tell them "GO!"). I walked over to the student and told her that she could not continue to speak like that. She stopped, but I don't know if it will happen again.

    How do I curb this problem behavior? My supervisor suggested that I call her out in front of the rest of the class, but I worry that discipline in front of the whole class wastes very valuable class time (but then again, so does this student). I have called her down a few times to ask her to move to a different seat, but no changes have been permanent. I also suspect that this student would completely explode if she felt profoundly embarrassed in front of her peers.

    What course of action should I take? I find this behavior a little ridiculous at the college level, but it's a good learning experience for me!
     
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  3. BioTeach22

    BioTeach22 Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2011

    have you reminded her that she is paying to be there? Do you have in your syllabus behavior expectations? Even a blanket statement indicating students must act in a way to create a positive learning environment or some such thing. It seems like at the college level the solution is simple..."Get out!" There are surely students in that class that are working hard at school, hard at a job, hard at homework and are PAYING to take that class. It is completely unfair for her to waste their time and money. I'd say if she hasn't learned that there are real consequences for her actions, then it's about time she did.

    I am flabbergasted that after multiple attempts to redirect her behavior with what's expected of her she is still behaving as she is, and that she's even still there.

    That would NEVER have stood at my college. A student like that would have been shown the door by the professor until the behavior changed or they dropped or failed the class.
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Feb 25, 2011

    I was able to have students removed from my class roster if I had a documented behavior issue with them. Is this something you can do? If it is, I would meet with her in your office and calmly tell her that you have a responsibility to not just her, but all of her classmates. If she continues to be a disruption in your class, you will have her removed from the roster and she will no longer be welcome. Be completely unemotional about it...just lay it all out on the table. Make sure she's aware that if a professor purges her, she won't get her tuition money back and it can jeopardize her financial aid if she gets it.

    Then, follow through. The next time she acts out, have her removed. Maybe you can't get her straightened out for your class, but it'll be the kick in the pants she needs to change for her other classes.
     
  5. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Feb 25, 2011

    Thanks for the advice so far!

    I've been keeping my supervisor informed about the situation. I don't personally have the authority to remove this student from my roster, but if the situation gets bad enough, my supervisor could theoretically move the student to a different class (this happened last year to another instructor with a student who was even worse). I'm only a TF, so while I am technically an instructor, I don't have full professor status. I have to contact my supervisor before doing anything with the administration.

    Also, the expectations in the syllabus are abundantly clear. In fact, the syllabus is over 50 pages long (4 of which are expectations of students). I did not personally write the syllabus (it's a departmental syllabus over which I have no control), but the rules and procedures are explicitly stated there.

    I have asked the student to leave before, and she didn't. I suspect that I need to be firmer with her or change my wording around to make it more clear that she needs to leave ("You need to leave class right now" instead of "Why don't you go home and come back when you want to be here?"--the latter didn't work, so I'll try the former next time).

    My colleagues and I have found that talking to students about the cost of their education does nothing. In most cases, the parents are shelling out the $50,000/year bill, and students don't view that as their own responsibility. My university is populated by predominantly wealthy students (usually the products of prep schools and boarding schools). Many of my students had very little say in the universities they attended, and I suspect that some are lashing out in an effort to be forced to drop out and attend a different university. I don't know if that's the case with this student, but it's something to consider.
     
  6. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Feb 25, 2011

    This kind of behavior at her age is alarming. I would definitely file a formal incident report in case she escalates further. It may also be informative to communicate with her other professors to see if her behavior is an overall problem.
     
  7. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Don't turn it into a battle. State simply and clearly "It's time for you to leave" If she doesn't, call security and have her removed. I've done that too.
     
  8. ecl

    ecl Rookie

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    Feb 25, 2011

    I would suggest that in future you handle this type of behavior immediately, before it escalates and disrupts others' education.

    As soon as a student is inappropriate (such as when this student shouted out after you told her she could leave and take an absence), I would recommend addressing it publicly. Make it clear that the behavior was inappropriate and disrespectful, and any further outbursts would lead to an expulsion from class.

    Also, state your policy about texting on the first day of class. Let students know what you will and will not tolerate, so that they know what to expect from you.

    Don't worry that a confrontation will distract students. I'm sure you are now aware that not confronting the student after the first incident has led to a much greater distraction for all involved.
     
  9. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Feb 25, 2011

    I'm guessing you can't call whoever is signing the tuition checks???
     
  10. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Feb 25, 2011

    Unfortunately no! FERPA forbids it! Oh, if only.
     
  11. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Not unless the student has yet to reach her 18th birthday. It's an unfortunate part of being a college professor; you can't play the parent card. On the flip side, you CAN kick them out of your class, you just have to be willing to do it. My students whispered behind my back that they'd better not cross me because I kicked so-and-so out of class way back when. I've called security to remove students a few times, and had two students purged from my roster for behavioral issues. I developed a reputation as a hard-a$$, and I liked it that way. I rarely had discipline problems.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Feb 25, 2011

    Isn't that silly? It seems to me that whoever pays the bills should know how his or her money is being spent!

    You have my sympathies.
     
  13. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Feb 25, 2011

    I think you're right about just nipping it in the bud as soon as the behavior starts. It has gotten to the point that other students can't learn with her in the class, and while I was trying to avoid a blowup, I think this one student will only respond to an immediate reprimand and explanation of the consequences of her actions.

    Also, the student knows the texting policy. I always explain it on the first day of class, and I also pulled this student aside and met with her to remind her of the texting policy.
     
  14. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Feb 25, 2011

    OK, I don't like to speculate, but in reading about all the recent violence on college campuses, might there be some underlying issues that this student desperately needs help with? It seems that the people they interview after violence occurs always say "he was so strange" or "he just couldn't get along".

    I don't want to shout fire in a crowded theater, but wow...that is not normal behavior for a 18-24 year old, especially in front of other 18-24 year olds...
     
  15. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    It's a valid concern! I don't know if that's the case with this student (I think she's very immature and seriously thinks she looks "cool" when she acts up), but I have seen cases where profs were documenting EVERYTHING that was going on with certain students. You can never be too careful these days.
     
  16. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    OK, again, I don't want to speculate about a student whom I've never met and have limited knowledge of, but...this is from Wikipedia, about Seung-Hui Cho, the Va Tech shooter:

     
  17. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Feb 25, 2011

    not to hi-jack, but as a paying parent, you have access to NOTHING!! The student has to give permission for parents to access grades, etc. This was quite a surprise when we registered my oldest daughter for college and the busar's office asked if she wanted permission for anyone else to access her records.
     
  18. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Feb 26, 2011

    Updates!

    I told my supervisor about today's incident, and she wants me to arrange a meeting between the three of us (supervisor, me, student). I sent an email to the student to request that she meet with me on Monday. I'll keep everyone updated on the situation!

    Thank you all for the great advice. I appreciate everyone's input.
     
  19. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I haven't read through all the posts, but I do see you have an upcoming meeting. Can you just drop her? It seems she is only going to bring the class down.
     
  20. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    I personally don't have the authority to do so.
     
  21. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Feb 26, 2011

    That's too bad. You'd think that after this much trouble that student should just be dropped. I think the lesson is one she really needs to learn, especially now that she's a young adult.
     

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