I have never...

Ok, there are lots of things I've never. But. This tops every other form of insolence from my students, college students. I told my mother what this boy said to me and she said none of her inner city high school students in all the 15 years she taught ever said that to her.

Here's what happened. This class is generally rude and unruly, you can read about them here. I gave them group work today, to come up with their own proofs for the existence or non-existence of God. Then each group had to present their proof for the class to critique. [A very cool assignment I was quite proud of.] At one point, it was time for the next group to go and I waited for someone to volunteer by raising his hand. We have to have a 'no talking without raising your hand' rule. Then this kid just starts talking. I said, "You didn't raise your hand." He did not stop talking nor acknowledge me. Some other kids started talking to him about it and he turned around to answer them while I stood in front of the class like an idiot. I asked him again to stop and for someone to raise her hand to give their proof. He completely ignored me. "Chris I don't see you raising your hand." Still talking. Then someone said, "Chris wants to go." So I said "Fine, whatever. Chris, go ahead." But he still hadn't stopped--and he was just babbling, not talking about his proof. So I repeated myself a little louder, "Chris, you can go now." Still ignored me. Then I yelled at him "Chris! Go!" The rest of the class made "oo-uoo" noises in a mocking tone. That's when he finally stopped and turned forward to face me. He looked me in the face and said, with much scorn, "Calm down."

I'm sorry, I have not been in college for 10 years to have some punka** 18 year old kid tell me to 'calm down' because he won't shut up.

I took him aside after class to talk about it, this is the first time I've done that. I should have earlier but oh well. I asked if he had ever told any of his other professors to 'calm down'. He said 'no.' I asked, "Do you understand how disrespectful that was?" He rambled on about how I had attacked him and it was just in the moment he said it and he didn't mean it like that and yes he does talk to the others that way and he's sorry it wasn't like that... Then I explained to him that I wasn't attacking him, I had to yell because that's the only thing the students respond to because of comments like his. That saying things like that undermines my authority which leads to situations like we had today. I told him I didn't appreciate it and sent him away. Unbelievable.

Before Chris did his little thing, another guy started chanting a little song to me. Because, I woke up feeling sick this morning. I'm getting a sinus infection and felt feverish. So I looked a little rough today, wearing sneakers, jeans and had just pulled my hair back in a messy bun. When I walked by this other kid he sang, "So-omeone's go-ot a hanggggg-over". This to the woman who has never been drunk in her whole life. He is the one who propositioned me so he just wanted me to pay some attention to him. I've decided to definitely sex up my look for their final exam. I'll walk around the whole time so I can distract the little boys and, oops, then they might not do very well.

These are supposed to be adults. The problem might just be with me. I'd accept that but my night class is completely different. One student thanked me for our class today because she enjoyed it so much. If I didn't have that night section I'd shoot myself for being such an incompetent failure. Man, I could so use some love tonight. A hug would be great. Just a pat on the back would do. Stupid empty bed.

UPDATE: The kid was much subdued next class. If only I'd talked to him months ago!


Anonymous said...

What kind of class is this? I've never heard of a college class with point systems and handraising requirements. Even seniors in high school usually aren't relegated to name-on-the-board-style teaching. Maybe they act like children for a reason? 

Message from jennifer

Anonymous said...

It's a 200 level class. That was the first time I've ever done the point thing. It actually worked. I have to do the hand-raising rule to prevent them from getting into shouting matches with each other during discussion. If they're behaving this way because of me, I'd like to know it so I could change. But -they act like children first and then I've added these stupid rules. 

Message from JL

Anonymous said...

They are treating you like you were a television set.

I've seen it in young adults (15 and up) over the past couple of years, from time to time.

It is an interesting development, often helped if you give them a "television" sort of replacement (one good use for powerpoint slides during a lecture).

I'm not sure what the cure is, though I've been thinking about it ever since I figured it out. 

Message from Stephen M (Ethesis)

Anonymous said...

I work with at risk youth 14-21. These are kids that have been in and out of jail...involved in gangs...pregnant and parenting...and never in the four years that I've been working have I ever had anyone of them disrespect me! What is happening in your class in wrong. My advice to you would be that you address the class with the problem...or each individual...once you let one disrespect you they all will...if talking to them doesn't work...maybe they need to talk with someone with a higher authority.

I hope you don't get to discouraged...keep your head up girl...

Message from Sleepless IN Portland

Anonymous said...

Yow! That is bad! Actually, though, a friend of mine has had behavior approaching that in her class here at ND, which in general has a rather well-behaved group of students! It sounds like you handled it well, though.

I did have a class today that didn't want to quiet down at first, but I was four minutes late to class. Not exemplary behavior on my part. And I had started off talking in a fairly informal manner; I was glad to see they had a decent amount of energy on a Friday afternoon at the end of the semester! I started talking about the actual material, and they did not stop. It's kind of cool; I have one student who sometimes shushes the rest of the class at the start! He is very laid-back and genuine but also well-prepared and smart and one of the more active participants, so he actually has a kind of authority, and they quiet down when he shushes them! Luckily after that, things went like normal today.

Hooray for good students, like in your evening class!
How much longer til the end of the semester for you? 

Message from Ben Huff

Anonymous said...


I don't know where you went to school or what schools you've been exposed to since graduating, but there are many classes that are having to be taught using the methods JL is.  

Message from Jessica

Anonymous said...

They don't behave that way for men, there's been a lot of research into the way teachers and professors are treated differently according to their sex. Women get much less respect. Is your friend who has rude students cute? I'm wondering if it makes a difference.

The really annoying thing about that class is that out of the 40 studentsm there are a group of girls who are the best students and the next best students are the smart boys who are so rude to me. Most of them got A's on their midterm.

Only 2 classes left of the semester thankfully. I haven't handled them well, usually I only have one or two like that not a class with 5 or 6! It ruins the whole atmosphere. I'll do better next time calling them out on it.  

Message from JL

Anonymous said...


There is a proper response for that kind of behavior. It's called a failing grade. Perhaps removal from the class, pre-semester-end, would also be appropriate.

Is class participation explicitly part of the grade as it now stands?  

Message from Kaimi

Anonymous said...

My department is very student-friendly and would not support a forced withdrawal from the class. It also causes problems from the admin/money end b/c the school has to return the financial aid money they received for payment of that class to the government, which they do not look kindly upon. Which my department would not appreciate getting the heat for. Academia is going to hell because it is becoming solely a for-profit based industry.

Participation/attendance/classwork/quizzes is 25% of the final grade. I started doing that after my first semester teaching. But failing the kid for that grade is retro-active punishment which doesn't help me any, and in fact would give me more problems in the future. Students expect to get good grades b/c they paid for class and they showed up. I overheard one girl in the bathroom cussing out a prof who 'gave her an F' on an exam when she wrote stuff down, because he said he didn't give partial credit. The students who are unhappy with their grades return the next semester to haunt us, arguing about their grade, begging for a change, threatening to go to the board....ultimately it's not worth it for me to fail the kid. All my peers are very easy graders--most of them say that students have to really try to get something lower than a B. But I haven't been able to put aside my belief in a real education and that grades have to be earned. I've paid for this. I've still got students harassing me from last fall.

They don't pay me enough to care this much so I'll be grading much more leniently this term. But, this hurts me because I feel like I've sold out my integrity and I resent that I feel forced to do this because I don't have time to do a good job as a teacher. I also know this cheats the hard-working students. And I'm becoming part of the problem by fostering this cycle of behavior. Either way, I can't go to bed at night feeling good about myself. I have to learn to get over this or get a new profession.  

Message from JL

Anonymous said...

yeah, JL, being a man helps. It's totally unfair. I was a little worried -- did I tell you? -- when on the first day of class I walked in and someone turned to the guy next to him and said, "It's like one of us just got up and started teaching class!" I was a little worried that I wasn't going to get any respect unless I gained twenty pounds or something! Luckily I have a strong voice and am generally fairly confident -- I think just talking a bit on the loud side when teaching actually does a fair bit to command attention, even when you're amiable like me. And fact is, Notre Dame students just tend to be pretty nice. I've been okay, but women I've known here have sometimes had serious problems.

My friend is very cute, slim, and also from southern Europe, with a distinct accent and occasional minor flaws in her English. All of these make her job more difficult I think, particularly at rather white Notre Dame.

Yeah, I think the universities are on a course for serious problems nowadays. There are a bunch of institutional irrationalities with no signs of correction in sight. I think part of the problem is that education is being handled like a commercial product, but quality control is sporadic at best. The students can tell you some things about the quality, but aren't in a position to make a comprehensive judgement, and nobody else is bothering or something. I can't tell what's going on. Of course, it's also very hard to measure quality in education, even if you spend some time. The standards for success are so disputable . . . 

Message from Ben Huff