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Onely Freakout October 3, 2008

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Great Onely Activities.
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As I have mentioned a time or two before, I am a graduate student and a college professor. Right now, I teach Introduction to College Writing. And in my class this semester, I have won the luck of the draw, so to speak, and drawn the most frustrating student I have ever had to teach. Since the beginning of the semester, his behavior has been distracting and oftentimes rude: He asks rhetorical questions that are intended to irritate (“Why do we have to write so much in this class?”); he sleeps (blatantly, with his head down on the desk); he stares at me with a blank stare when I ask the class to write; he demands my attention when everyone else is quietly working to ask questions that we have already covered or to ask questions that are clearly irrelevant to the activity at hand (like when he came up to me in the middle of a class writing activity and asked, “So we’re allowed three absences without any penalty?”); and recently, he has been sitting in the middle of the classroom when I have made it clear that everyone is to arrange their desks into a circle formation (so we can all see each other while we discuss student writing as a class). We’re about 6 weeks into the semester, and I keep expecting his behavior to change (my other students are FANTASTIC and provide good models that I simply expected him to follow, eventually), but it hasn’t. 

Everything came to a head on Tuesday morning. When I walked into the room and saw that he had positioned himself in the center of the circle, right in front of me, I asked him to move to the outside of the circle. He refused. I told him that he didn’t have a choice – he either needed to move or to leave the classroom. He replied, “You can’t make me. This is college. I can sit where I want.” I repeated what I had said before. He continued to refuse. And of course I couldn’t make him (he was right about that), which made me feel completely helpless and ANGRY… For the rest of the class, he sat in the center of the room staring directly at me. As usual, he refused to participate with the rest of the class or add to class discussion, and every time I looked around the room, I saw his face first. At the end of class I told him he had to meet with me, and so I spent the next hour and a half feeling extremely angry/frustrated/stressed while I prepared what I had to say to him. But he didn’t show up, and I felt even more helpless and angry than I had in class.

Tuesday was the worst day I have had in a very long time, all thanks to the very worst student I have ever had to deal with. I went home that morning and couldn’t contain it. All those emotions had to go SOMEWHERE. So I freaked out: Up in my one-bedroom apartment, I cried, I yelled, I cursed, I stomped my feet, I pouted, I called a friend to wail in her ear.

The only witness to my temporary madness was my puppy, thank god. I needed to freak out like I did, but I wouldn’t have done so if I weren’t single… With a significant other present, I would have felt obliged to cry in moderation, to “talk it out,” to seek a resolution of sorts, and probably to remain somewhat calm throughout. If I hadn’t contained it, witnesses may have become overly concerned, perhaps suggested that I go get some “help,” or simply danced on eggshells to make sure I didn’t freak out again. But I needed to freak out, damnit. I’m glad I was able to do so without having to filter…

I am Onely: Hear me roar!

— L


1. onely - October 5, 2008

Shoot, that’s true. Once when working on a particularly troublesome essay where I felt my writing was godawful, I lay curled in the middle of the living room the floor for half an hour, wailing. After that, I was able to put sentences together again. If my “artist fit” had been interrupted by a well-meaning sig other, perhaps that essay would never have been finished. Just a thought. Also I think Lisa may need to get security involved with this student. Doesn’t he seem menacing? –CC

2. Anita - October 6, 2008

Wow. That sucks big time. Have you thought about checking with someone you trust (unofficially if need be) – a chair, a mentor – to see what your options are?
Even if you feel safe, that’s disrupting the class and the other students’ work. There are requirements for class that I take for granted; maybe someone could clarify with him that he is required to be basically polite and not a complete creep in class. And I would report it to someone, in case it escalates.

3. onely - October 6, 2008

Oh thank you both (C & Anita) for your many sympathies/concerns about the situation! Quick update: I did get my boss involved (actually had alerted him to the situation prior to last Tuesday’s incident), and then when this happened arranged a private meeting with student, who was as resistant as ever, and then he and I and my boss met together too. Student will continue to stay in my class and has “agreed” to change his behavior (given that both my boss and I explained to him that he doesn’t have a choice in the matter — you are absolutely right, Anita, about “expected” behavior in college). But if he acts like this again, my boss will get involved more directly and get the ball rolling to get student removed from my class.

Very frustrating, but don’t worry, I think it’s under control (and if it’s not there are further steps I can take). I didn’t include the most recent info simply b/c I thought it would take away from the real point of the post!!!

— L

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