Teaching frustration of the day

I don’t really want to use my blog as a place to gripe, but I need to vent for a moment.  What do you do with a student who never listens, always offers (lame) excuses for not doing his work, irritates the other students, and generally manages to ruin class on a regular basis?

I’ve got a great listening/speaking class.  They’re fun students, and they all seem to like each other.  Except for this one student that nobody likes.  Our class is 2 hours long.  He’s frequently late to class, which means he gets locked out of the classroom for the first hour, but he gets in during the break.  That first hour without him is wonderful.  That second hour with him is torture.  He constantly pulls me aside (interrupting my work with other students) to explain why he doesn’t have his book, or he forgot to bring a pen to class, or he can’t work with that student over there.  I’ve tried ignoring him; he keeps talking.

He always has excuses for everything.  Students who constantly make excuses for their poor work just aggravate me, and yet he doesn’t seem to understand why this bothers me so much.  He looks at me every day as though I’m the unreasonable one.

He has tried on a few occasions to rile up the other students.  He’s from Jordan, and most of the students in my class are from Saudi Arabia.  He clearly doesn’t like them very much, and he has made comments in class clearly intended to offend them.  Of course, I don’t allow those comments.  Of course, I shut him down when he’s going down that path.  But I can’t control what he says to them outside of the classroom, and from my students’ reports, he has been extremely rude to them when I’m not around.

I pride myself on being a teacher who knows how to develop a sense of community in the classroom, who makes the classroom environment helpful and friendly, who includes every student.  But I’ve pretty much had to give up on this guy.  It’s very discouraging.

One thought on “Teaching frustration of the day

  1. I used to pride myself on having a more tolerant classroom and being able to inspire and motivate even the most recalcitrant student. I remember going many days in a row one semester with a feeling of sublime peace towards all my students and, as is always and will always be my custom, making sure that every student feels welcome at whatever time they push the door open and enter the room. The semester was developing like one big exhalation of “om” as we moved through the river of language. Then one morning for some reason it struck me differently that one student who had ended up ignoring my class and rarely visiting suddenly appeared, and about 15 or 20 minutes after the class meeting had begun. “This is not the first day of class,” I said to him in a tone that conveyed my deep sense of personal irritation. This reminded me in that season of a story from a book called “The Only Dance There Is,” by Ram Dass, in which he recounted the tale of a guru who spent months, maybe years up in the mountains meditating and growing closer to the Buddhist ideal, at peace with himself and with the world. This person had achieved a very high level of being through concentrated effort at meditation. Then he returned to a big city and, in the first 24 hours as he was walking along the crowded street, he was jostled by a stranger and, for just a split second, “lost his cool” and started to feel angry, before catching himself. But it was too late. All that meditation up in the mountains, all that he had accomplished, was gone, and he was back to the starting place again… All this is to say that I think the way you are handling the situation is honest, straightforward, caring, and fair. Don’t let the student get to you. Just keep doing your best as a professional. There is nothing else you can do, really.

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