What to do ??

Having looked at the continuum of behaviors ranging from irritating to escalating and to those that may potentially involve safety issues, we've touched upon a range of possible classroom management scenarios. Of course behavior is fluid. For instance, something that begins as an irritation can potentially escalate into a high-level issue. Needless to say, there are sound next steps you can take no matter the point in the continuum that you are trying to address, and as we've seen, these measures will depend on the severity of the disruptive behaviors you are trying to mitigate. A point worth repeating - so I will - is that you are not alone in this process. There are many resources and supports at your disposal. In addition to getting whatever support would be helpful, I suggest you also periodically reflect and think through some of the potential scenarios that might occur in the classroom. I encourage you to speak with colleagues and try to occasionally attend a session or two on classroom management, because it will likely give you an opportunity to hear about contemporary scenarios and approaches to how these were addressed. Because it is a prevalent issue, it is likely that you will eventually encounter a situation involving classroom disruption. While this is never something anyone wishes to experience in their classrooms, again, I'll repeat, it's good to think preventively, and be proactive and prepared.

To these ends, in situations that involve "low level" frustrating behaviors, such as the irritating and annoying behaviors listed above, the next steps will probably seem somewhat routine to you. The core in addressing such concerns is good communication of your expectations behalf that are respectful of the student's "due process" rights and establish limit setting. As noted earlier, in academia, due process can be defined as treating the student fairly and in accordance with College policies, such as the Student Code of Conduct, and Title IX. It's helpful to bear in mind once again that when you refer students to the resources such as the Conduct Officer or HEAT, your actions are not "getting the student in trouble" or betraying the student in some way. Instead, you are engaging in a collaborative effort to teach the student appropriate and acceptable behaviors. You may also potentially be preventing campus violence, because if numerous individuals have reached out with concerns about a particular student, it may be a sign that the student is escalating, possibly asking for help, and in need of intervention.

Teacher talking to student As you give thought to the particulars of having a conversation with your student, consider the logistics of where to locate and have the conversation. In the case of low level concerns, if you are comfortable doing so, try to arrange to speak with the student in a quiet but accessible location with others in the vicinity. Some settings that may have these qualities include your classroom (either before or after class, when other students are not present), or in your office. If you are an adjunct and have a shared office space, it is fine to invite students to speak with you there. Try to find a time in which the setting is relatively quiet, but in which you are not isolated. If that seems impossible, you can attempt to arrange a meeting in a quiet place with a colleagues nearby while also giving the student and yourself a little space. In other words, you are trying to avoid embarrassing the student, and arranging a relatively private but not a remote or cut-off setting for the conversation. Some of our faculty colleagues prefer to leaving their office doors slightly ajar when meeting with a student. If you have specific concerns that the conversation could spiral and lead to the potential of safety issues or perhaps gender based misunderstandings to arise, then it is a good time to strategize with your Divisional resources (Chair or Coordinator and Dean). In short, there are many ways to go about this. The point is to navigate respect for the student's privacy while also thinking ahead to the possibility that the conversation could potentially escalate.

What should you plan to cover in your conversation? It is simple but does involve covering a few bases, none of which will come as a surprise to you. It is key to discuss why you are meeting with the student. But, it's not only about specifying the behaviors that are disruptive. It's also about describing what appropriate behavior looks like and providing examples. There are no absolutes in how you go about covering the material - just so long as the points are made clearly and articulated in a student-friendly way. Generally speaking, difficult conversations are easier for students to "hear" when faculty members are professional but also relatable and supportive. One way to begin is to share that the aim of your asking to have the conversation is because you care about the student being successful in your class. Discuss the disruptive behaviors, referring to specific behavioral examples, and convey the specific concerns you have. Specificity is important, because a student may not perceive these behaviors in the same ways that we, as instructors, do. And, in fairness to students, when we want to see something changed in the classroom, it is on us to describe in concrete terms what we want to see changed. We can't expect students to be mind readers. This is also the opportune time to set and reinforce limits (and here's where it helps to have some language in your syllabus to refer to. Not only will it help reinforce your point, but in situations where students feel "singled out" or even discriminated against, it is important to relay that these are behavioral standards that apply to every student in the class). Ask clarifying questions, and listen to the student's point of view. The most effective conversations are two-way and listening is a way of communicating that you value the student.

During the discussion, try to be direct and clear. It is important to maintain a professional demeanor, so if you happen to be experiencing discomforting emotions such as anger or hurt that might come through to the student, it may help to talk things through with a trusted friend or colleague prior to having this conversation. I would recommend you avoid having "fuzzy" or unclear boundaries with the student and as a general rule do not engage in self-disclosure in these kinds of circumstances (i.e., telling the student "I've lost sleep thinking about this conversation", or "I get that you do drugs. Back in my undergraduate days I experimented with all kinds of drugs", etc..).