Wednesday, November 10, 2010



My cheapy camera is taunting me today, but I figured since I wanted to share thoughts about classroom management today more than my outfit, this was probably good enough.
I have two female students in my class who give me a hard time. They are pretty bright and interested, but they talk the whole class to each other. When I'm talking, when they're supposed to do group work, when others are talking. I've had to stop more than once and ask them to be quiet during a single class, but this is getting ridiculous. One of them came in 15 minutes late to class on Monday, with a plate of fries and a hamburger. (I don't even like potato chips in my class, as they can disrupt other students' concentration). I realize I should have separated them at the beginning of the semester (created work groups, asking them to sit apart), but it's too late now. I will assign them in separate groups today.
I felt super frustrated on Monday, and I spent too much time second guessing myself. I spoke to another professor who hired the louder one as his RA and he told me that she is like this in all the classes, and that it likely isn't anything I did. But in general, I find that I usually have 1 or 2 female students who are bright and disrespectful a semester. Last semester, I had two female students in my 2PM class who continually talked during the class. I've spoken to other youngish female faculty members about this, and some of them have similar concerns. I don't get outright disrespect from male students. At worst, I have some male students who dominate class discussion, or try to be overly familiar (one asked if he could take my picture on his iPhone on Monday. I respectfully declined). I wonder if there are weird gender dynamics going on here, as maybe some female students challenge female professor's authority in a different way than a young male professor? (I do realize that this could be partly my fault, but no one other students in any of my other classes are disruptive like this.)
Anyway, this boring outfit (hopefully the fullish skirt makes it slightly more interesting, and not just frumpy, although I am OK with that right now) is supposed to communicate that this is not appropriate behavior.
If anyone has thoughts, experiences, ideas about this subject, I'd love to hear it.

Skirt: Uniqlo
Shirt: Banana Republic
Tights: Target
Shoes: Naturalizer


  1. In my time as a high school teacher, I perfected a death stare that is capable of disarming almost every student. Sometimes the students don't notice they're receiving the death stare until the whole rest of the class gets quiet enough for them to realize you're staring at them, and then the impact can be heightened, but I have to be seriously committed to death-staring to get to this point. When they finally notice, I usually say "I'm ready to move on" or "We're all waiting for you to stop talking."

    This kind of relies on the rest of the class siding with you, though, rather than with the recipient of the death stare. If the girl is like this in all her classes, classmates might think you're the strange one for staring at her to call attention to her rudeness. So while the death stare is my go-to trick, I can see how it might fail in this situation.

    Would it be too much work to require them to come to your office, tell them how inappropriate and disruptive their behavior is, and demand that they discontinue it? I think that's how I'd handle it, but I'm really curious to hear what more experienced college instructors suggest.

    Good luck with the group re-assignment, though-- I hope it helps!

  2. Oh Rad, I'm sure it's not your fault. I know your fellow academics will have good advice on this, so I'll share a student perspective. I sat by a pair of such girls in one of my graduate level classes last year, and they were just as rude and disrespectful to our professor - a white male in his late 40's. I don't know how other students in your class might feel about this, but I was actually annoyed that my professor didn't do more about it, as it was disruptive and distracting to me. If nothing else, I felt that I was paying a lot of money (which I'm still paying... ugh!) to learn from my professor, and these girls were making it very hard for me to do so.

    These types grow up and make their way out into the corporate world too. I have a weekly meeting where 2 women constantly steer us off track to chatter and gossip, which bugs me just as much as it does in school. Maybe I'm just easily annoyed :)

    I hope assigning the girls to different groups will help! Just curious - did you let the students pick their own groups? Most of my teachers in college would assign groups totally at random, which seemed to help.

  3. I'm curious as to how you have asked them to be quiet in the past. Do you tell them that they are being rude and disrespectful to you and their classmates? I've found that pointing out that the behavior isn't creating a positive learning environment and could thus have negative consequences on participation grades usually nips this in the bud pretty quickly.

  4. @Liz: Death stare sounds awesome. I will work on it. The other students are definitely annoyed at them.
    @Anne: Thanks for sharing your experience. I know that others are annoyed about their behavior. I don't regulate behavior that is kinda rude but not disruptive (sleeping or texting) because I figure the only it hurts is the student him/herself. It's also good to know that some people are just rude.
    Good call about the sacrifices other students make. Basically, the rude students are disrespecting you more than the professor.
    @LaHdM: Good question. I tell them that they are being disruptive and disturbing other students, but it usually only stops them for 5 minutes or so. But if I am lucky, the resumption is quieter. I may ask them to stay after class and let them know that their participation grade is suffering as a result of their behavior.

  5. You look cute and professional.

    I hope putting the girls into different groups helps. Like Anne said, it's not your fault at all, and people act the same way in the workplace.

  6. actually, i really like this outfit :) it is definitely something i would wear.
    as for classroom management, that is such a tricky part of teaching. you're teaching college students, too, right?
    i mostly remind students gently that their participation grades are important and that professional behavior in the classroom and attentive participation is the only way to get an A. but this situation sounds super tricky!

  7. I like how your shoes provide a spot of color in this outfit. I also like this skirt very much.

    A white, mid-40s male prof for whom I TA'd also perfected the death stare. He would stop lecturing and stare at the chatters until they realized what was going on. Other students often hastened the process by hissing "SSSHHHH!" at them. The death stare is gold.

    Another option? "I have repeatedly reprimanded the two of you for your disruptive and disrespectful behavior. Since you are unable to stop talking when you should not be talking, I have to ask you to leave. Go. Now." Harsh, sure, but I bet you'll only have to do it once.

    Classroom management may have a lot in common with toddler management. I should write a book.

  8. UGH. I hate rude students. At Virginia Tech when I had undergrads in the class I set rules like "no cell phones in class" etc. And then if they didn't obey I was just like "you gonna take that outside or turn it off?" If you have rules and they all know them you can just challenge the offender openly and they have to back down. In your situation, I would say "OK ladies can you take that conversation out into the hallway because you're bugging the rest of the class" in a completely matter of fact, colloquial tone. Try to have nothing stiff or angry about your demeanor, say it like it's a big joke we're all in on. Goal: the rest of the class laughs, they blush and shut up. Possible alternate outcome: they don't quit, you say "no seriously, shoo, and make it snappy" and you have just kicked them out of class for the day. I try to defuse situations with humor and to get the rest of the class subtly on my side so that there's peer pressure for the twit to stop being a twit.

  9. I tend to go with the death stare as well. Shaming is my most effective teaching tool in every way. That said, if it doesn't work, I'd go with with Cynthia & KBean's tactic of asking them to leave. If they're being really disruptive, every other student will be on your side.

    Hope it went well today! (Also, your outfit is rad and authoritative!)

  10. Sadly I can't offer much advice on dealing with the misbehaving students. And I was always the quite kid in class. Once I got reprimanded for talking during a class and I don't think I said another word for the rest of the year.

    But I've also been in classes where students made it their goal to be so unruly that the teacher would kick them out every day. I think it just became a game to see how quickly they would get asked to leave.

    Hope you figure out a solution!

  11. Crazy! I would never EVER bring a hamburger into class, that's just insane! And the chatter too!

    I used to work as an assistant to the dean at a middle school (running in-school suspension, detention, hall monitoring and whatnot), so it's a very different dynamic, but I found that male students were more respectful to me and that the girls were more likely to get rude and challenge my authority. I always figured it was because it was in a rough neighborhood and a lot of the students were raised by young single mothers (so the boys would respect me as they were used to a strong female authority in their lives) whereas the girls, who were often raised by single mothers as well, still saw me more as "competition" than a mother figure because I looked so young. Totally different situation, but the other assistant dean (who was male) always did better with the girls too. It was very surprising!

    Good luck with the girls, that is so strange to me to be so rude in a class where you are paying for an education and trying to learn!

  12. @Rebecca: Thanks for your encouragement. I did put them in separate groups but they dominated the different groups (but didn't talk to eachother, at least).
    @WWANW: Yes, it's sophomore/junior level class, and one of them is a senior. I think I will do a gentle reminded in class, as we don't have much left, and hopefully others will participate.
    @K-Bean: I would definitely buy your book
    @Cynthia: I've used humor before, with these students, repeatedly, so sadly I am losing my sense of humor about this. Cool call on keeping it nonchalant, when asking them to leave.
    @E-Jo: I will work on the death stare and practice in front of a mirror!
    @Lyddie Gal: I'm sure your teach knew that you were a good student.
    @Future Lint: Hmm... I face a similar dynamic. I never thought I was "competition" to these 20 year olds, but some of my male and female colleagues told me that this is likely going on, with some of the female students who act up. Weird. When I get behavioral problems from male students, it's usually not rude but just dominating (asking a lot of questions during class, hogging class discussion), which is very different.
    Thanks everyone for sharing. I knew I could count on Style Nation.

  13. Gosh, that is tough. And quite ridiculous. I mean, why even come to class then? As a recent student, i say if you're having a day where your mind must wander, make out a grocery list or draw on your notebook, rather than talking while your professor is talking. I'm sure other students find it disruptive, and I like the idea of "death stare" to really exaggerate the interruption to them. If they still don't stop after staring them down for a full minute or two, then I would ask them to leave, because they are disrupting class.

    P.S., I love your outfit! They gray/black is definitely authoritative. Hope today went better!

  14. As a college prof, I really hate these situations. Have you met with them after/out of class?

    I would do that and say - and I have done this before - "I don't like to publicly embarrass students but I have I asked you to stop talking repeatedly. Next time I need to ask you to stop I will tell you to leave." Alert someone at a higher level than you that you will be doing this for back-up - dean of students, chairs, departmental UG advisor. Then do it next time they are disruptive. You could couple it with the threat that you will remove them from class permanently.

    If you have tried humor and have spoken with them, then they have had fair warning. They are likely ruining the class for other students and certainly for you and you (and your students) deserve better.

    Good luck - these are tough issues!
    Also excellent outfit!