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.