AFGO, Part IV

When we last left our heroine, she had written a pair of letters to The Powers That Be about Jon’s behavior and why she wanted him out of her classroom.

I submitted the letters to Joe, who told me that he’d forward them to the other appropriate Powers and that they’d have a conference at some point before my next class with Jon. I went home that afternoon more than a little nervous (just to refresh memories – the incident happened on Monday, the letters and conference with Joe happened on Tuesday, my next class with Jon was Wednesday).

My greatest concern was for my immediate safety; the meeting with Jon and Sam had not gone well, and I was worried that the kid was so worked up that he’d get violent. There are three other men in the classroom, and I had no doubt whatsoever that each and every one of them would step in if I (or anyone else in the room) were being physically threatened. The point, though, is that I was uncomfortable putting them in this position – they’re in my classroom to learn, not to behave as bodyguards.

When I went to the college on Wednesday morning, I was taken quietly aside by the head of security, who told me that he’d be handy to my room all class. Xena decided to come in to “observe” my class; she was really there to observe Jon’s behavior, but her being there was an easy sell because the faculty at TCC regularly sits in on one another’s classes. I had put together a really good lesson plan that would keep all of us busy for the whole class period – I could lean on my material and keep the class moving – but I was still shaking when I walked into the room.

I was entirely unprepared for what I encountered. Jon was calm and cooperative. He actually participated in the discussion. He looked me in the eye and spoke appropriately in both words and tone. The class went smoothly and well, and I think that quite a few of us – not the least of which being ME – were more than a little surprised. This was not at all what I had been expecting.

When the class was over, Joe and the head of security came in to debrief me. They told me that there was always someone within earshot of the class (“eeek!” I thought, as I tried to recall everything that had been said) and that full-time coverage could be arranged for the rest of the term if I thought that was something I needed. I was delighted to tell them that, really, if Jon continues the way he was in class that day, I didn’t feel I needed people looking over me. I felt pretty good about how that class went, and I was willing to try again on Monday to see if the trend continued.

I went home after class and wrote Jon an email, which I openly cc’d to everyone who was anyone.

Dear Jon,

We had an excellent class today, and I was very glad to have you be
a contributing member of it. I am certain that we can figure out a
way to work together, and your performance in class this afternoon
reinforced that idea for me. Thank you.

I am concerned about your academic standing in this course, however,
and would like to meet with you to talk about some of the things that
you can do to recover your grade. Would you be available to stay for
about ten minutes after class on Monday, May 19th, to discuss this?
If that’s not convenient for you, what other times might work? I’m
happy to include Sam or Joe in the meeting, if you
prefer, or we can meet alone; let me know what you decide.

I’m truly interested in your success in this class, Jon, and am
willing to offer you an opportunity to pass this course. I have
every confidence that you can do well.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Chili

My plan, when I met with him, was to offer him the same deal I gave to Last Minute Larry last year; any work that I hadn’t received from him could be turned in by a certain date for D grades. This would give Jon a chance to pass. I was also insistent that Jon make some kind of apology to the class. He breeched a trust, whether he was willing to admit that he said what he said or not, and I thought it was important for him to stand up and take responsibility for his actions. I sent this to Sam and Joe:

Class went really well today, Gentlemen. Xena came to observe, and she saw Jon leave a couple of times, but he came back from break when he was supposed to and he even participated a bit. It was actually nice to have him in class today.

I really am interested in seeing him succeed, but I want to make a few things very clear. I will offer him an opportunity to pass the class – I’ll accept late work for a D grade if he does it all and well, I will not tolerate any more disruptive behavior in the class AND I expect him to apologize to the class for his outburst on Monday. I don’t really care HOW he apologizes, but he still has to apologize.

I haven’t heard back from him yet about whether or not he’s available for Monday. When I do, I’ll let you know.

Warmly,

Chili

My next (and probably final) installment will be about the resistance I ran into with Joe about insisting on this apology, and about how things have gone since then. Thanks for sticking with me through all this, you guys!

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8 Comments

Filed under colleagues, compassion and cooperation, concerns, I love my boss, Learning, self-analysis, student chutzpah, Teaching, The Job, Yikes!

8 responses to “AFGO, Part IV

  1. I am so glad about the turn around but wonder what in the world turned Mr. Hyde back into Dr. Jekyll.

    You are very gracious to offer him the opportunity to pass. I, too, would insist on an apology although I think this may be your sticking point in this whole thing. Let us know how it goes.

  2. i think you handled this all so well, mrs. chili. you are one of my teaching role models. :)

  3. Wow! You are my new hero. Nice job!

  4. I am happy things calmed down; I, too, would insist on the apology. What is bothering me somewhat is that I detect a (familiar) attitude from the administrators. Is it okay for a student to have an outburst but not apologize? We, as teachers and professionals, could NEVER get away with that if it were our end. They are treading on eggshells here, appearing to me as if they don’t want to “hurt” a student’s esteem by forcing him to make amends with the class.

    You know it bugs me. I was in a situation where the dean was more worried about the repercussions of pissing off one (habitually abusive) student than my safety.

    Keep up the good, and extremely professional, work. You do a good job of separating the work from the personality. I wish I could do better at that.

  5. Gosh, what a strange set of student interactions you find yourself in. You definitely have a “survivor’s guide” going on here, some days.

    Also, thanks for the encouragement. *wink*

  6. Sounds like he went back on his meds or something. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. I hope you continue to feel (and be!) safe.

  7. Susan

    That kid is playing games. He is going to reward your letter to him with a sucker punch.

  8. I’ve nominated you for a Blogging with a Purpose award here!

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