Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dealing with the Dangerously Disruptive Student

A situation we all dread.  From Inside Higher Ed:

The YouTube video of a Florida Atlantic University student losing control last week in a classroom and threatening her classmates has gone viral, disturbing many who teach in college classrooms. Campus safety experts say that the clip reveals challenges faced by faculty members who are usually the first point of contact when it comes to disruption in the classroom -- and who sometimes may not be trained on how to respond.

The incident at Florida Atlantic ended when campus police used a Taser on the student and took her to a mental health center, but not before she had uttered a stream of racially charged profanities, screamed death threats and smacked at least one classmate.

The link contains the video, which is very graphic and violent. It also offers advice: immediately cancel the class and call security, before the matter begins to escalate.

Watching the video, I see a  young instructor  who is probably a  teaching assistant and dressed very casually, like a  student, and who just stands there passively, presumably because he has no idea what to  do. I would instruct a TA to dress authoritatively for the job and give him or her some training on how to handle difficult students.


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Dressing differently might help in some classroom situations. Unfortunately many universities and colleges have no dress codes for students or faculty beyond what local law enforcement will tolerate. Consequently many, if not most, lecturers, profs and TA's dress like students. I've taught on several campuses - on one we were encouraged to dress professionally, no ties though. On another, we had 50 and 60 year old profs showing up to class wearing worn out blue jeans or "distressed" shorts, logo tee shirts and blown out running shoes or even flip-flops. No prof I had in college ever dressed this way - even the most liberal, long haired ones dressed professionally and kept their hair neatly trimmed, bathed regularly, didn't smoke where they shouldn't, etc. But that was 20 years ago. Page Smith (Killing the Spirit) and Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind) wrote about the destruction of classroom decorum and "dumbing down" of curriculum content decades ago. Now chaos in the college classroom is common place, especially among so called "entitled students." Those "not entitled" have become victims of, and frequently "passive participants" in, disruptive student behavior. Tolerant left-wing profs with arrest records get promoted or hired, conservative professional nice guys with no police history get blamed and fired. Welcome to the new world order in education.

Posted by: Science Prof | Jul 6, 2012 6:04:30 PM

With all due respect, I find it difficult to believe the TA dressing differently would have altered the outcome of this situation. The woman was tasered by police officers when she resisted arrest - if uniforms had no effect on her, I don't believe a suit would have either.

Posted by: Anna Blaine | Mar 31, 2012 10:09:27 AM

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