A post in which there is much and copious swearing. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
I have a grammar class this term. That, in itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, in this particular case, is actually pretty darned good. I’ve got a good group of students who regularly show up and at least TRY to engage with the material. I do my best to make the work accessible, and I really feel like this group recognizes and appreciates that effort – in short, they’re playing along and the class is, if not fun, at least palatable.
One student showed up today in a mood. He started the class by trying to hand in last week’s homework and claiming that he had NO IDEA that I don’t accept late homework. “I was absent, and I didn’t read the fucking syllabus, so how the hell was I supposed to know?” was his response to my restating my policy. I ignored the epithet and reminded him that he was here on the first day of classes, when I clearly and painstakingly explained that policy. All that earned me was a cranky boy dropping noisily into his seat and putting his head on his arm.
He stayed that way all through class. About halfway toward the break, I called on him to answer a question we were working on at the board, giving him the benefit of the doubt that, while he may not be LOOKING at me, he may well still be LISTENING to me. He looked up, gave me a dismissive sort of glare, and said nothing. Someone else answered the question in the awkward silence he created, and he took that as permission to put his head back down, but not before muttering more swears under his breath.
Just before break was over, I called him out into the hallway, closed the door, and asked him gently (because this behavior isn’t normal for this boy – he’s apathetic about the class, but he’s never been outwardly rude to me) if something was wrong. “Yeah, something’s wrong,” he said, “this fucking class sucks. I hate this class, I hate this shit.”
“I’m very sorry you feel that way. I understand that this is a tough class, and that the material isn’t exactly thrilling, but you’re here for a reason. I’m doing my best to make it as fun as I can, but you have to participate.”
“It’s fucking stupid; I hate it.”
I reiterated that I felt sympathy for him, but that if he were going to spend the class napping, he’d have to do it somewhere else. At this point, he stomped back into the room, grabbed his crap (swearing the whole way) and stormed out.
I had to write a letter to my boss (and to the boy’s department head) about the scene. I’m not personally bothered by it – hell, I kind of agree with the kid and I’d resent the hell out of a basic grammar class, too – but behavior like that can’t be left alone. The boy doesn’t usually behave like that, either, and I’m concerned that there’s something really wrong with him. Besides, he seriously ruffled the kids who were in the class – they’re a really GOOD group, and they recognize that the class is only going to be as enjoyable as they’re willing to make it. One girl – goddess love her – actually apologized to me for his tirade. “You’re doing a good job,” she said, “you didn’t deserve that.”
Here’s the note I sent to the bosses. I’ll let you know how it all plays out.
This is just to let you know that I had an incident with Steven Student this afternoon.
He is in my 1:30 Foundational English class, though his attendance has been spotty. He came to class this afternoon and we had what I consider a mild incident early in the class about his trying to hand in last week’s homework late. He then proceeded to put his head on the desk and essentially ignore the class. When I called on him to answer a question on something we were working on at the board – giving him the benefit of the doubt that he was listening, if not looking – he was unresponsive at first, then openly hostile.
After break, I called him to the hall to ask him what was going on with him. His response to me was verbally abusive, and I told him that, if he were going to nap, he should do it someplace else. He stormed in to the room, collected his things and, amidst a fair bit of cursing, stomped out of the room.
I’m concerned for Steven – this behavior hasn’t been my experience of him to this point. Before today, he’s been pleasant to me, if not a little credulous of the class material – and he’s never been abusive. His behavior this afternoon shocked me.
I recognize that the students come to me at a difficult time of day and that most of them are pretty much wiped out by the time they arrive in my class – and I know that I’m not teaching edge-of-your-seat material – but I think that the dynamic of the class is a surprisingly positive one, given those circumstances. The students who regularly show up are making an effort to learn, and they recognize the effort that I’m making to make this material as accessible as possible. Steven’s reaction today surprised a lot of students, and really disrupted the positive energy that we try to maintain in the room.
I felt that it was important to let you both know that this happened, and to let you know that this is not usual behavior for this student. Please know that I’m available for any questions you might have, and will offer any assistance – to you or to Steven – that I can.