AFGO, Part II

The class ended and several students came to me on their way out the door to ask if I thought they should go and find Sam to tell him about what happened in class that afternoon.  I told them that I didn’t think that’d be necessary, but that I’d let them know if Sam asked to speak with anyone.  As I was explaining this to the third student to approach me, another student came back in the room to tell me that Sam and Jon were outside, so I sent everyone else out and invited them in.

Jon was hot.  His butt hadn’t even hit the seat before he was going off about how unfair I am, how EVERYONE in the class thinks that I’m unreasonable and that I’m not actually teaching anyone anything (it was all I could do to say “well, it’s obvious that I’m not teaching YOU anything, but I don’t think you’ve got any right to speak for anyone else,” but I managed to keep my mouth shut).  He continued with “I pay your salary” (I LOVE that) and that if he wanted this kind of terrible treatment, he’d go back to high school and pay his teachers there to abuse him.  He completely ignored Sam – not a good sign, and this should have been a tip-off to me that this was going to continue to go badly – and launched off on a rant about how terrible TCC is, that it’s no wonder it has such a rotten reputation (again, biting my tongue; it’s kids like this that contribute to the school’s reputation in the first place) and how, if it’s supposed to be such a “hands-on” school, why aren’t there more field trips (I swear to God/dess, he actually complained about the lack of field trips).

Sam was doing his best to rein the kid in, but it wasn’t working.  Jon continued to yell, continued to make gestures at me, continued to throw papers around and to kick the table as he vented his rage.  Sam asked him what happened in class this morning, and the child LIED TO OUR FACES.  He accused me of being unfairly biased against him and of scheming to do everything in my power to disenfranchise him in class.  I had manufactured this latest event in order to get him in trouble, and that it didn’t matter what anyone else says he said, he KNOWS what he said, and he said “screwed.”

I know that Sam wasn’t buying any of it, but I’m still disappointed in how he ran this “meeting.”  I felt vulnerable and disrespected, and I SHOULD have insisted that the kid speak respectfully to us or not at all.  When he refused (and he would have refused), I SHOULD have gotten up and left.  I’m still angry at myself that I stayed and allowed myself to be treated like that, and one big lesson I’m going to take from this experience is to never let that happen again.

There was really nothing productive to come out of this meeting; at least, not while I was still there (Beanie had a presentation at school and I had to leave before we’d settled anything).  Jon was unable to produce work that he claimed he’d finished, he refused to listen to me when I tried to explain to him that there are certain behaviors that might be okay in others’ classrooms that aren’t okay in mine (that whole “social contract” thing – remember that?  We’ve only been talking about it for two weeks!), and I left the room shaking, angry, and more than a little frightened.  This kid was off the rails, and I wouldn’t put it past him to take his frustration out in ways that were far more inappropriate than throwing papers around and kicking chairs.

I thought about it all afternoon (I tried my best to stay focused on Beanie’s presentation, really I did) and ended up going BACK to TCC in the late afternoon to have a powwow with the Powers that Be.  I had Joe (my department head), Sam (Jon’s department head, and someone who’s been trying to get Jon on the track since the first week the kid was in classes), the interim Dean of Students, and the Registrar in one room to try to figure a solution to what I was seeing as a pretty significant problem.  Aside from the fact that Jon had seriously damaged the environment I’d worked pretty hard to create in the classroom, he demonstrated with his behavior, both in class and in the meeting, that he is unwilling to make any sort of compromise that would allow him to be successful in my classroom.  Beyond that, I said, I don’t really feel safe with the kid around; he’s significantly bigger than I, our confrontations have escalated over the course of the semester, and I don’t want to put myself or my students at risk of violence.

That was really all Joe needed to hear and he was ready to pull Jon from the class, but the interim Dean put the brakes on that plan.  There are procedures that need to be followed to remove a student from a class – hoops through which we must jump – and unless the student makes an overt threat, those procedures have to be checked off.  I was sent home with instructions to write a letter to the important people about my experiences with this student and we’d get the ball rolling.  In the meantime, I was told that security would be put outside my room while class was in session, and that the (rather large and formidable, black-belt) teacher whose class is across the hall from mine would be put on alert should I need him.

I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t really have much say in the matter.  I went home, started drafting the letter, and started wondering what kind of hell would be the class when we met again on Wednesday.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “AFGO, Part II

  1. Oh, the “she has something personal against me” routine. Bah. It is obvious that the people you work for see through him. But, unfortunately, in this society, our fear of litigation means that we have to follow “the process” first. I’m starting “the process” now myself about a problem student we have. Sigh. Keeping my fingers crossed that “the process” goes smoothly, and if not, that Mr. Black Belt does a fine demonstration of his abilities in the hallway.

  2. In real life violent situations conflict resolution experts suggest that you get the most success out of letting someone run out of steam on their own. I don’t think that meeting had any chance of solving anything because the kid hadn’t run out of steam yet. They say you’re best off taking a submissive posture and making non-condescending listening acknowledgment noises and, in cases like yours where the relationship will need to be ongoing, to try to take notes if it won’t escalate the behavior. I don’t think you need to feel that you “let” yourself be treated poorly, nor do I think you would have done the right thing by leaving. You gave the kid his space, you let him speak his entire (completely deluded) mind and everyone involved knows that. It will only serve you well as things continue since you have all manner of proof of your side of the story and he has none. To leave, to dismiss him in any way only adds fuel to his fire.

  3. Ah yes, the proverbial hoop. I am sick to death of teachers being asked to jump through them. This sounds just like the situation I dealt with earlier in the year. I can’t believe he was given the power in the meeting. Keep us posted!

  4. It makes me angry that you have to jump through hoops to remove someone who has become increasingly hostile to the point you don’t feel safe.
    I also love it how students will disrespect a school for the learning environment (or any other reason) when they are often part of the problem.

    Oh, I think you handled the meeting as best as could be in that situation. He wasn’t going to listen to anything you said and would use anything as fuel for his anger.

    Please keep us posted.

  5. What do these kids do when they get out of school and into the job market?

    I think you’re right on though about walking out of the meeting next time. You don’t need to sit there and listen to that crap.

  6. WOW. Yeah, I have to admit, being able to have a student removed from class immediately is definitely something I appreciate. I don’t use it often, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

    *hugs* PLEASE do whatever you need to in order to stay safe!

  7. i HATE that students can (and do) make their teachers feel unsafe. the year i was doing my high school teaching, i had a kid sexually harass me a few times, and it got to where i didn’t feel safe. like you were saying, he was significantly bigger than i, and his behavior was not giving me reason to believe he knew how to exhibit restraint.

    i’m so sorry you’re having to go through this, but i’m glad to see you’re handling it with your usual dignity and strength.

  8. When did it become ok to behave this way in a class toward a teacher? Throw a tantrum and you’re gone. That’s my opinion. No questions, no due process.

    It’s obvious that this will not turn out well for the student. Too self centered. Too much of an entitlement mentality. What is making this stressful is a culture that suggests that this is somehow your problem.

    Still, I’m glad you’re sharing this. From a personal growth perspective it’s a great case study.

    I’m in the middle of a Hero’s Journey unit. Can you tell?

    Good luck Mrs. Chili–and may the force be with you.

    Chris

  9. This situation just plain sucks. I agree with all the above comments – the meeting did no good except prove that the kid has some serious issues and needs a serious dose of the “real world.”

    I pray that the administration stands behind you and supports you.

    Please hang in there and know that all of us are thinking of you and wishing you happy thoughts –

    Keep us posted. 🙂

  10. whodoesshethinksheisanyway

    Kizz, have you been sitting in on my Therapeutic Crisis Intervention trainings? You are right on your points except I would say that the meeting was necessary for young Jon to continue to vent his feelings. Maybe now he has run out of steam..
    I also agree that walking out would not have been a good choice. It sucks that the kid was rude and disrespectful. It’s not about you at all, it’s about his shit. If you had walked out, it would have been like saying “I’m not willing to listen to you so I am leaving.” Let the boy vent, make sure he knows you heard him, then remind him of the expectations. Again, use this as a teaching tool for him. I know, you’re teaching public speaking, not respectful conflict resolution! You know what though? It is what it is. Some kids (and adults) just have never learned to deal with their feelings and advocate for themselves appropriately. You have an opportunity to teach him some new skills, don’t let it pass you by. And remember, it is highly likely that he comes from a home where he doesn’t have a voice or his parents just don’t care (read;have walked out on him.)

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