Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maybelle, she thirsty!


I've been thinking about the last few years of teaching. Having dealt with a plethora of student hostility, verbal abuse, and outright rudeness, I thought I'd pose a Big Thirsty for you all:

Q: What's the worst name that you've been called by a student to your face or what name has been said (intentionally) loud enough for you to overhear it?
What did you do?

I'll start us off: 

I was called a "Stupid, fucking bitch" (maybe it was just "a fucking bitch," time makes the memory a mite bit fuzzy) by one of my top 5 all-time worst students ever (see here).

It wasn't said to my face, but rather outside my classroom. I heard it as I was walking out the door, and judging by the unwavering eye contact, the student was not ashamed. I walked away and back to my office, not saying anything. Realistically, there was no way to prove he was talking about me, so there was no need to feed into the student's need to control and be the center of the universe.

The student caused a whole host of other problems, so I took great, great pleasure when I got to nail the student for an egregious academic integrity violation less than a week later. I merely reported the facts, and I only went with the standard department punishment for the violation rather than the directed comment.

34 comments:

  1. This semester I had a student who, when I asked him to turn off his phone, flipped out and came up to the front of the room and got in my face and said "I don't give a fuck about you and I don't give a fuck about this class." I know, he didn't acually call me a name, but it was just as bad. A close second was a student who raised his hand and when I called on him he said "Are you making us do all this (APA style) stuff just to be a bitch?"

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  2. Well, I was called a motherfucker, but that was an easy one -- I just had the idiot removed from my class. Then I was once called a prick, but that was on an anonymous course evaluation so nothing much I could do about it. I've been flipped off a couple times. And I once had a student inform me that "if you was any kind of real teacher you wouldn't need no rubric." She was angry about getting a D.

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  3. I was called a welfare whore, I was unclear if I was a whore on welfare or a person who sleeps with others for food stamps.

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    1. They've heard it from someone else,
      Archie Bunker perhaps,
      it was mean and ugly,
      and likely not a lapse.

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  4. Not to my face, ever, but students have let on (students that like me, actually), that I am known as a bitch (which the students that like me respect).

    Early on in my career, my first semester of full-time teaching (when I looked more like a student), a couple of guys on the quad would make comments under their breath about my weight when I walked by.

    I totally ignored them, because I knew I would have my moment. One day when I was walking by with a couple of my students (like most bullies these boys liked to pick on individuals and not groups), I said, loudly to my students, "you should take my class in the fall if you like the one I'm teaching now".

    The two boys blanched, considerably, and they were gone the next time I strolled by. Perhaps they went to some trouble to find out who I was, so that they would never end up in one of my classes. Since I was new, that would have been hard. Or perhaps they spent the next couple of years fearing that they would sign up for something I was teaching.

    I hope it was the latter.

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  5. It's the most common one I've heard, but I really really hate being called a "bitch," especially by a man.

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  6. As a lowly adjunct instructor teaching at a community college fire academy(I suppose I'm not really a teacher),I find it hard to understand the attitude of these students.

    I am also attending the same college as a geology major, aiming at a BS from our local state college. That being said, I wouldn't dream of treating any professor or adjunct as described.

    I would have to say something if I was privy to such behavior in or out of class.

    While I don't always agree with or like my professors, there are much better ways to handle these situations on the students part than resorting to overtly hostile actions.

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    1. Of course you're "really a teacher." If your fire academy students aren't learning, then we're all in a big heap o' trouble.

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    2. Indeed. Also, if your students are anything like the EMTs and firefighters I've taught, you've got an unusually responsible, decent, community-minded bunch. Not surprisingly (and thank goodness!) those are professions (or even volunteer positions) that seem to attract some very solid citizens.

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  7. I was called a complete dick one time. It made me feel powerful.

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    1. As opposed to a partial one, I suppose.

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  8. I once had a student who called another kid an "idiot" during discussion and, when I reprimanded him for it, called me an "asshole."

    I calmly put my hand on the emergency phone at the front of the classroom (goes directly to security when you pick it up) and told him he had two choices: he could apologize to me and to his fellow student and then leave quietly and voluntarily, or he could get dragged out by security. He chose the former, and never troubled anyone in class (including me) again.

    I don't take any shit from these snot-nosed punks.

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    1. If he apologized, why did he still have to leave? Did he miss anything really important? In my opinion, he had paid for the class and he was not dangerous, so he should have been permitted to remain in the room, at the very least, if not even to continue to participate in the discussion. If you didn't think an apology was enough, you should have reported this as a disciplinary issue. In fact, you probably should have in any case. I see that as a matter of principle.

      I realize that being disciplined by the university or being lectured by some university official is probably worse than simply being dismissed from one class meeting, just by the professor, and allowed to return next time. If you asked him to switch groups or to remain quiet, that would be somewhat understandable as a precaution in case he would have continued to be rude or even as an informal punishment. However, he shouldn't have been deprived of all the learning available in class that day, not unless and until the university suspended him, withdrew him from the course or otherwise ordered him to stop attending your class. Maybe the university would have suspended him immediately, or until he met the appropriate authority, but if so, it would have been done according to the rules and by the people with the appropriate authority.

      The right to make students leave the classroom, even against their will, is for your physical safety and, presumably, in case someone decided to constantly disrupt the class. That student apologized and deserved the opportunity to remain in the classroom unless he continued to misbehave. How exactly did you "reprimand" him, anyway, to get such a rude answer?

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    2. He was asked to leave to make a point, to show him and the other students that bad behavior has consequences. I don't need any further justification. Verbal harassment of a fellow student is not acceptable. Not even once. BECAUSE it was only once, he wasn't withdrawn from the course, though I let him know via email that would happen if he did it again.

      The right to expel students from the classroom is for my safety, the safety of the students, AND to maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning. In this case that power was exercised making the point that denigrating your fellow students is not acceptable at all.

      I reprimanded him professionally but sternly. Nothing I did would have deserved such a response, aside from the fact that I'm skeptical anything even remotely within the wheelhouse of normal behavior COULD "deserve" such a response.

      Finally, he doesn't have a right to be there. He paid for the privilege of attending our institution and if he steps one toe out of line, we're perfectly justified in revoking that privilege. With prejudice.

      I repeat: I don't take shit from these punks.

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    3. What does "professionally but sternly" really mean? I realize that you may not be able to remember the exact wording.

      Now, of course, you don't have to justify yourself. However, it does seem rather odd that a student would call you such a name. Maybe he's a very sensitive person and he found your reprimand excessively harsh. You must have hurt his feelings. It is also possible that the word "idiot" was not really meant as an attack. Some people are joking around or criticizing their peers by calling them idiots in a very casual manner. It's just the way they talk. As a matter of fact, to them, "idiot" is nothing, they may be using worse words. That does not make it acceptable in the classroom and you don't have to accept it. It's just that it must be really shocking when at one point they are just joking or expressing mild criticism in what they may even see as an affectionate way and the next thing they know, the professor, who does not share their social background, is getting on a high horse and "professionally but sternly" reprimanding someone who meant no real harm.

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    4. I know there is no point engaging here, but I cannot help myself.

      Any instructor has a right to eject from a classroom a student that is behaving disrespectfully to the instructor or to any other person in the class. This creates an atmosphere that is not conducive to learning, and learning is what the class is for. It is what all the students are paying for the chance to do, and they deserve to have that chance. Disruptive behaviour takes that away from them.

      Calling the instructor an "asshole" is disrespectful. Calling another student an "idiot" is disrespectful whether or not the student "meant it to be" disrespectful. Sure, there are some social contexts in which that would be perfectly acceptable, between friends. A classroom is not such a context and the students need to learn that very quickly if they don't know it already.

      What you're doing, Monica, is called "victim-blaming". I'm not sure why you're doing it, but I suspect it's because you're an asshole. Stop it.

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    5. What would have happened if, after being reprimanded, the student apologized instead of calling the professor an asshole?

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    6. I'm sure you can figure this out for yourself.

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    7. Not really. Some professors would simply move on but then, maybe the student would have been invited to talk to the professor after class or even to somebody else (department chair, Dean of Students, etc.).

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    8. Monica and Merely, I'd ask that you let this one go. Several readers have noted that one of you is clearly baiting the other, and that the other has taken the bait.

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    9. It is always hard not to take the bait when someone's being an asshole.

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  9. My RL last name is shared with an internationally loved commercial entity, so most names students call me derive from that.

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  10. While I was teaching, word somehow got to the students that I never married, I lived alone, and I wasn't dating anyone. Guess what I got called a few times? ("He's how old and still single?")

    Unfortunately, I strongly suspect one of my colleagues was the source of the information. He not only spilled the beans but distorted the facts to deliberately destroy my reputation.

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    1. Several members of my department are gay. Several of my students are gay that I know of. Being gay, or rumoured to be gay, isn't a problem in these parts; I am sorry it is (or was) where you were teaching.

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    2. How about being referred to as so "flaming homosexual that it's distracting"?

      We can get such charmers in our classrooms.

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    3. Well, since different people are distracted by different things, I would say that judgment provided more information about the distractee than the (supposed) distractor.

      But no, of course, not acceptable.

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    4. CouldBeBetter, The_Myth, No Longer, CC, and, well, pretty much everyone: what naked and ignorant displays of privilege are being described here. We can to a point feel sorry for them - they know they aren't the ones with power in this particular interaction, since we, not they, are at the front of the class - but the ways they choose to object are just vile.

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    5. The_Myth:

      I guess in my case, people seemed obsessed about my private life and my "ambiguous" status. I even had a twerp ask me in class why I wasn't married. I quickly put him in his place by telling him that if that was a marriage proposal, I'd have to disappoint him because he was out of luck. He turned so red he could have been used as a traffic light.

      Unfortunately, in the craphole I used to teach in, whoever flung mud first won. If the intended target admitted that the allegations were true, then he or she was guilty as charged. If he or she denied them, then they were guilty because, if they were innocent, why would they have defended themselves? If, on the other hand, the response was silence, that meant the accused was guilty as he or she, by not saying anything, was obviously hiding something.

      My personal life was nobody's business and that place knew nothing about me unless I chose to say something or was required to by regulations. However, with the warped thinking that I just described, people chose to make up what they didn't know or couldn't prove and it usually wasn't in my favour.

      Unfortunately, information like that had a tendency to find its way into one's personnel record and, sometimes, the individual in question wasn't notified, contrary to institutional regulations. From what I was given to understand by the institution's staff association, that practice was quite common.

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  11. I've heard that students call me a bitch behind my back, but to my face, the worst things a plagiarizing student called me was "fucking racist bitch" when I called him on plagiarism.

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  12. I try to remind myself that these people are suffering and that they've probably endured considerable abuse. Nevertheless, I still have to "cry on someone's shoulder" after I get an insult. Every once in a while, someone will hit my Achilles' Heel, and then I feel like flying into a rage. But I always keep my composure because, more than anything, I just pity those people.

    Also, I enthusiastically write lots of letters of recommendation for current and former students. If someone has insulted me, though, they don't have a chance in hell of getting a letter of recommendation from me.

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  13. I don't think I've ever been called a name to my face (or even on a student eval., though I've gotten a few pretty vitriolic comments on those, most of which boil down to "she grades too hard/assigns too much work"). I think it might be an upside of being someone who looks like she should be a nurturing mommy/grandmommy/brings-cookies type, and is, in fact, a rather reserved person who gets far more excited about students' ideas than other aspects of their lives.

    Or maybe the introversion/slight tendency toward obliviousness in social interactions means I just don't notice the insults. Honestly, given the fact that I'm fat and sometimes rather slow to return papers, they could easily call me something along the lines of "lazy pig," but I've never gotten that. I've wondered whether such attitudes play a role in the student evals I get (which aren't horrible, but are almost never stellar, either), but I'm not sure. I don't seem to get higher ratings in online classes, but, as I understand it, nobody does (hey, so maybe I'm likeable/not absolutely horrible at social interaction after all!)

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    1. I've wondered about this myself. As a fat woman, I'm fully aware that everything I do takes place in a sociocultural context in which I'm presupposed to be lazy/stupid/greedy/bad-adjective-of-your-choice. Pretty decent evals, but again, nothing stellar, in spite of the enormous effort I put in and the highly enthusiastic feedback of colleagues who have done teaching observations for me. That's one of the most awful parts of systemic bias -- the lingering doubt about how it's impacting you, in ways you can't be sure of. Is it really me as a teacher? Or is it the particular body that the cosmic genetic lottery has allotted to me?

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  14. I got called a stupid little bitch to my face, once. And, not to feed the troll, but I did tell the student she was never to set foot in my office again.

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