How to handle an extreme narcissistic teen as a teacher
March 12, 2013 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Posting for a friend - I have a good deal of experience with difficult teens, but i've honestly never encountered this (and am definitely now intrigued myself on how to handle). A short description inside.

Here's her situation, in her words. We're dealing with the Junior/Senior in high school age range-

"Basically, this kid always texts and talks during class. And his first paper he wrote about having sex with a girl. When I handed papers back, in front of class, he asked me if I liked his paper. When I told him to read the comments, he (still in front of class), compared his paper to 50 shades of gray, and asked if i liked THAT. Today, the students were doing worksheets and he complained it was too hard and wanted help. I wouldn't help, and he asked why and I said "Do you remember things better if they're easy or if you fuck up?" and he said "I remember things better when I fuck them." I've asked him to move seats away from his friends, to put his phone away, but obviously I can't force him to and he just ignores me, which makes me look even more powerless. When I told him to stop texting today, he said "I'm not texting, I'm rating girls based on their looks (on some website I don't remember)." We don't have a principal, we can't talk to parents, I don't know what to do because he calls me on everything. . .And the sad part is, he's really smart.
Any ideas you have would be awesome. . .
Thank you!!"

Many thanks from me as well!
posted by assasinatdbeauty to Human Relations (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What is the context here? This isn't a public school, right?

He is creating a hostile work environment. If he's a high school student, you should follow procedure. If this is outside of school, you need to call him on the sexual stuff. He needs to learn its not OK to talk like that in a professional environment. If he continues, exclude him from the activity.

The talking and texting stuff is pretty common and annoying. Once again, if this is voluntary and he's disrupting others, have him leave until he's ready to participate.
posted by shrabster at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2013

It's hard to imagine what kind of setting does not allow teachers to tell kids to move seats, doesn't have a principal, and doesn't allow contact with parents. Can you elaborate?
posted by Wordwoman at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2013 [20 favorites]

This makes no sense, you must have some sort of discipline available to you.

Internal suspension, referal to his AP for internal suspension, etc.

I'd just expel him out of the class. Your right to an education ends when you not only don't take advantage, but are keeping others from doing do.

I wouldn't help, and he asked why and I said "Do you remember things better if they're easy or if you fuck up?"

THAT seems like a really obnoxious thing to say to a student. Why is your friend not modeling appropriate behavior and language?

At this stage of the game, if for some weird reason I couldn't kick him out of the class, I'd stop engaging him at all. Let him sit back there and text.

My consequence for not following instructions and doing class work in class would be not to accept any assignments. You get a 0 for the day. You may also fail the class.

This kid wants an audience, stop giving him one. Make him leave, if you can't make him behave. Failing that, ignore him until he starts behaving in class.

Small priase when he is doing the right thing, but absolutely NO acknowledgement when he's being an ass.

This is why I left teaching. But trust and believe, I'd have called home, engaged the AP/principal/School Resource Officer so fast it would make your head spin.

Life is too short to deal with assholes, especially 17 year old assholes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

obviously I can't force him to and he just ignores me

Why, exactly? i think this part needs to be expanded on. Are there specific rules limiting your ability to force him to move across the room, or put his phone in the desk until the end of class?

I said "Do you remember things better if they're easy or if you fuck up?"

Is this a direct quote? Because i think phrasing it that way is pretty unprofessional, and only encourages low-brow responses. I can't remember a good teacher from my entire education who swore at me in frustration/snark like that.
posted by emptythought at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2013 [18 favorites]

We don't have a principal, we can't talk to parents, I don't know what to do because he calls me on everything. . .And the sad part is, he's really smart.

If you have no senior people to talk to then you must run the school and therefore you can talk to his parents if you want to. For this not to be true, either there really are senior people and you should talk to them, or you mean that you are literally unable to contact his parents because he has none and he has no therapist or guardian or equivalent. In this case you should go to CPS.

Final possibility could be that you are on a remote island where you are the only authority figure. In that case I suggest you vote him off of it (ie: expel him).
posted by jacalata at 2:24 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Former sped teacher here who worked with kids who were one step away from jail.

Christ, this must really suck for the other kids. A loudmouth kid and a teacher who can't deal with it.

He isn't a narcissist; your friend is letting him run the class and she had better lock that down.

The first thing she needs to do is establish classroom rules immediately. And I'd start with "No Cell Phone Use, Period," and students have to surrender their phones as soon as they come in the room. A student refuses, they get sent to whatever administrator exists.

Next, why the hell is she engaging and talking about "fucking up" with a kid? That's completely inappropriate. And she asked him to move seats and stop texting? No. You don't ask; you tell. Kid doesn't comply, he gets sent out.

Your friend needs to get admins in her class immediately and get some help.

This kid is allowed to completely ruin the education of other kids and it needs to stop. If your friend can't deal with this kid, she needs to get out of teaching.
posted by kinetic at 2:28 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The things she says to the student are paraphrased to show her frustration.

I'm looking less for actions like "order him out of the class, talk to the guidance counselor, expel him", more for ways to speak to him and respond to his behavior within the classroom setting, verbally. Psychol

It's more that higher authorities are unreliable for much support (think terrible public schooling system).
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 2:31 PM on March 12, 2013

It sounds like you're in an alternative school of some kind where you're a bit more peer-like and less authoritative, and that's why you have no principal, no parent-contact and no meaningful authority. Is that the case?

That sucks! I wouldn't do that job for ten million dollars and a pony, and I wish you every kind of luck.

However, that aside:

1. Concentrate on detaching your sense of self from these interactions. Are you fairly young? You probably are too emotionally enmeshed with your students - not through your fault at all! This student can play you because you care what he says (and it's really hard "not to care" in an alternative system, because you're there to care). But detach. Remind yourself every time you see him that he is not your peer, he has no power over you, his opinion of you means nothing to you except from a technics standpoint - ie, you want what is best for him as a human being, whatever that means for the relationship between the two of you. Concentrate on projecting "I am older than you and I don't care." I've learned to subdue some young guys this way when the would have walked all over me a few years ago.

2. Don't like him. Don't sympathize. Don't see things his way. Don't remind yourself that he is "smart". A peril for me when I've taught/led groups is to see the smart, mean, troubled kid and want them to like me, want to fix them, want to prove something to myself and them by succeeding with them. A lot of those kids - they aren't ready to shape up. What you give them is not going to generate immediate change - it may generate change down the road, but you can't do much with them in the short run. (What kind of peer relationships did you have in school? Are you attempting to sort something out via re-living that stuff with your students? This isn't IME uncommon or your fault or anything - just get wise to yourself.)

3. Don't give him openings - that means you'll have to tighten up your language with the other kids too, of course. But particularly don't give him openings. Don't try to win him over. Don't be shocked. Don't antagonize. Concentrate on not reacting. If he pulls something egregious, just look at him, nod and move on.

He may not be messing with you to get your attention or to get negative attention; he may just enjoy being evil and think he's being really transgressive, and it's not about you but about his relationship to the whole world.

I'd give that paper back with a note saying that it's not acceptable and that there will be a zero for it and similar work, and that if he doubts his ability to choose a topic, he is free to bring topics to you and you will let him know if any are acceptable.

Also, is there any counseling available for him? Someone with so many sexual hang-ups isn't in very good shape. Also, suggesting to him that he might use counseling resources may snap him out of the "I am so cool and transgressive" mode.

Above all, accept that maybe he's going through an asshole phase and the best thing you can do is ignore it/him. So what if he rates girls on his phone? You can't control the assholes of the world, and you don't have the institutional tools to control him, so you just ignore him.

Is there a point at which you can have him removed from the classroom? There's a risk that ignoring him will cause him to escalate.
posted by Frowner at 2:34 PM on March 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

assasinatdbeauty: "The things she says to the student are paraphrased to show her frustration. "

If this is the case, his response makes no sense. I agree with others that something doesn't add up here. Sounds like the teacher desperately needs to use their training to regain some authority or quit teaching.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:41 PM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm looking less for actions like "order him out of the class, talk to the guidance counselor, expel him", more for ways to speak to him and respond to his behavior within the classroom setting, verbally. Psychol

posted by jacalata at 2:52 PM on March 12, 2013

Response by poster: @jacalata - because she has to interact with him in class every day for now, and is a caring teacher that would like to help in any way instead of "well, he's an asshole, just bear it until i don't have to deal with him anymore".
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 3:24 PM on March 12, 2013

1. sometimes consequences are helpful. What is she teaching him by letting him get away with doing whatever he wants, including comments that could be considered sexual harrassment?

2. there are presumably a couple of dozen other kids in the classroom. If she thinks he is having no impact on them, then her impression of a kid 'talking all through class' is different to mine. She's making a conscious decision to disregard the needs of all the other students in order to ineffectively babysit one kid, which doesn't seem like a good decision.
posted by jacalata at 3:31 PM on March 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

I taught in a notorious (sadly, now nationally notorious) inner city school for a bit. Classroom management was THE key skill required. Seriously, if you could keep the students in their seats (literally) then you were doing marvelously. And the only technique I ever needed was the Death Stare. It works for a single kid as well as an entire out-of-control classroom.

Actually, I posted about this trick once before, long ago! Here is my answer in full (albeit oriented toward an entire class misbehaving, but like I said, I had great luck using it on particular troublemakers giving me lip, too). The other comments on that thread might be useful, too, so tell your friend to check it out.

Glare. Silently. Speak not a word.

Yes, that's it. When the classroom is crazy, you pick one kid -- just one -- who's at the heart of the mischief. Doesn't matter if there are others also shrieking, screaming, running, bouncing, cursing, texting, whatever. Just pick one of them. And glare at him with all your might. A livid, eye-bulging glare.

But don't speak a word.

Here's what'll happen. Nobody'll notice at first. Then somebody will. Then somebody else. As the ruckus continues but you continue to glare in livid silence, the better kids will settle down. The really wild ones won't notice... at first. Somebody might ask you why you're glaring. Don't respond. Somebody will ask, "Why don't you speak?" You don't respond. Your glaring silence will begin to unnerve some of the students. One or two of them will eventually say to the rabblerousers, "S/hhe's glaring," and then, "Shut up, shut up."

It may take a few minutes at first. They will feel very long. You will wonder if it's not going to work. Trust that it will work. Just keep glaring.

Only once you have utter and total silence, do you then proceed. But do not remark on what just happened. Just calmly continue with what you were saying before, as though the interruption -- whether it was fifteen seconds of chaos, or fifteen minutes of it -- never occurred.

If this works (and really, I used this in classrooms full of kids from a variety of cultural contexts, and never had it fail), then you will certainly have to use it again, but you will never again have to glare quite so long before winning total silence.

I have no idea why this works so well. But I think it's the utter silence, even once kids start asking you sassy questions, that does it -- it unnerves them so completely that the class then turns on the few kids who aren't unnerved by it, and deploy sudden and vicious peer pressureto force them to behave.
posted by artemisia at 3:35 PM on March 12, 2013 [39 favorites]

I understand that your friend wants to be a caring, compassionate, understanding teacher. However, this kid has a problem and I'm not sure that the way to deal with it is by being caring, compassionate, and understanding, at least the way your friend thinks. Sometimes being caring, compassionate, and understanding means telling someone they're out of line and there will be consequences if they continue to act this way.

This kid needs to learn, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior is unacceptable. I think she needs to work from some kind of three strikes, you're out mentality. The first time the kid behaves in an obnoxious way, he gets a warning and after two warnings, he gets detention.

If your friend wants to help this kid, I think that's her best option. Otherwise, he's going to think it's cute to act like this to his future boss or that future boss will just want to have A Talk if he acts this way. Plus the other kids see this kid getting away with it, so they think they'll get away with it in her class and others. That doesn't help anyone.
posted by kat518 at 3:38 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

One more thing: if a teenager talks back to you / tries to get a rise out of you, NEVER try to out-talk or out-quip him (as she did when she answered his challenge about the assignment). It just very, very rarely works; far more often, it incites him or her further. When you match his quips with your own, you're sending a message: "I will play your game." What makes the death stare work so well is that it sends an entirely different and better message: "Your game is not going to happen here. Period."
posted by artemisia at 3:38 PM on March 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

"Your game is not going to happen here. Period."

QFT. I also think your friend is too focused on remediating this "intriguing" student. She's letting him detract from the learning of the other students (really, what teenager, male or female, benefits from watching a female teacher get sexually harassed?) and he's taking over the classroom time.

Things that MAY work:

1. Basically you stay calm, quiet, and collected, and model the kind of behavior you want the collective group to have. Don't acknowledge MINOR infractions, and don't emote in such a way that it'll be interesting to see what happens. Part of this may involve having a really detailed lesson plan, and will DEFINITELY involve the teacher visualizing what counts as a minor infraction for him or her, as well as what the consequences will be if there's a major infraction, and finally what they'll have to do to make those consequences enforceable.

2. Don't give papers back at the start of class. Students will pay more attention to the papers and comments than your lecture. If your lecture is about errors with the paper, make it general, and encourage them to look over their paper at home/outside of class.

3. Establish a classroom management plan, and be prepared to enforce it.

4. Step away from "poor him, he's bright, if only he could be reached!" thinking. When you do that, you give him a bad-boy pass. Being bright is not an excuse for sexual harassment, and it's not an excuse for letting him take over and dominate the class in this way.
posted by spunweb at 4:04 PM on March 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can't force a kid who doesn't want to listen.

I never understood why other kids would just acquiesce when their parents would "ground" them or make them go to their rooms even though they didn't want to. That's not forcing--the kids want to obey their parents. Forcing to me involves physical force. (My parents were lucky that I was well behaved.)

If you tell a teenage boy to put his phone away and he says no, then what? Are you going to physically grab it from him? Nope. Are you going to tell him that he has to leave the room? What if he says no then? Are you going to physically remove him? If he has no desire to listen to you or respect for or understanding of teacher/adult-student/child authority, you can't force him.

All you can do in that situation is recognize that you have zero sway over him, try to remove him from the situation, and focus on the children that you still have some hope with. I'm not saying that this particular kid is hopeless, but you (or this other teacher that you're asking for) have no hope of getting through to him with the skills/resources currently in your possession.
posted by thebazilist at 4:30 PM on March 12, 2013

This doesn't sound narcissistic, this sounds like a kid who is used to only getting attention when he misbehaves. (It is also not professional to label kids with a diagnosis you're unqualified to make anyway, and it won't help solve the problem.) Your friend needs to stop rewarding him when he acts up, and praising him when he does stuff right. If he wants to text, he can do so in the back while a fun and exciting conversation about [current subject] takes place without him. Don't bother trying to talk him into doing things, just engage the other kids. If he's smart, he'll eventually ask "why don't you ever call on/include/ask me?" and then the teacher says "because your texting in class/other behavior/&c. showed me that you weren't interested in the chapter we're reading. If you want to join us you're welcome, but you participate on my terms. I won't call on you if you can't demonstrate that you want to be a part of this."
posted by oneirodynia at 4:39 PM on March 12, 2013

I'm no expert, but this doesn't seem like narcissism to me. It sounds like he has created a public identity that he has found gets him noticed by his peers, a little bit like how many people maintain an exaggerated facebook version of their life. Of course, I'm in no position to know this kid, but narcissism doesn't ring right.
On preview, what oneirodynia said.

Again, no expert here, but I'd constantly communicate - obliquely and indirectly - that to you as a teacher who has been around kids (and been around older kids and adults) his attitude about sex is unsurprising for a younger kid like him, just juvenile, though he acts out on it more than usual, so he's got a short window to grow out of those attitudes before they'll put a big crimp in his sex life. basically, he's too young to realize how ridiculous he's making himself, but that it's understandable that he wouldn't know, the poor dear. But if the persona is a defense-mechanism for self-doubt or self-esteem issues, then this approach (inciting doubts about how he will be perceived) is really not a good one. On reflection, probably best to not take the risk.
posted by anonymisc at 5:54 PM on March 12, 2013

Well, here's something. She could try to talk to him 1:1 and explain the situation, that she's there to provide an education, that he's clearly intelligent but some of his choices are not conductive to learning, and try to enlist his suggestions in how to make the classroom experience better for everyone.

Who knows? Maybe he has some good ideas about what he wants to learn and how he wants to learn it.

In other words, treat him like a respected adult and get him onboard with the program.

It certainly won't hurt. I wouldn't expect an Annie Sullivan-type of miracle, but it could show the kid that despite his inanity, she still respects his intelligence to treat him as a valued member of the community.
posted by kinetic at 6:06 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

If he is smart, odds are he has been bored and under-educated his entire public school career. Teacher can create a program just for him, or... well, ignore him. Teacher friend of mine said a problem child could take up to 80% of her time and attention. So, it is up to your friend how much effort she wants to put in. If she does go the route of creating an advanced course just for him, I applaud her. First caveat- if he misbehaves, he gets sent out of class or some such. Period. Second- he must maintain respectful talking behavior.

As for the actual advanced course, see what he is interested in. Talk to him, learn his interests, and see what kinds of projects you can get from him. It is, in my opinion, perfectly fine to let a smart kid who can pass X test read/quietly do whatever he wants during X tests classroom time. I personally enjoyed taking vocabulary tests way above my grade level because I could, and the at grade level stuff was babyish to me. So, talk, find his interests, and research, prepare, and try to stay a half step ahead of him, if possible, or at least have other avenues he can study prepared to distract him with.

Of course, treating him like his IQ deserves may not work. But I agree with Kinetic that enlisting him to run his own education with your help/blessing is probably the only way to go.
posted by Jacen at 6:39 PM on March 12, 2013

Stealing some wisdom from my SO, who has been a sped teacher for a while...

It's really sad if the reason you're turning to AskMe is because the staff at your school is not supporting you. This is exactly what senior staff, et al. are meant to do. This kid sounds like a real challenge, and you shouldn't have to face this alone.

No phones in class. Is there seriously no way to enforce this in your classroom?

Caring teachers find ways to set boundaries and manage an orderly classroom, whether it's in a looser, "alternative" setting or in a stricter, more traditional setting. You are not doing this kid a favor if you reward his behavior.

DO NOT ENGAGE with his vulgarity or smartassery. Shut him down with a Death Stare. You do not play his games. He does not write the script for your interactions.

Either the work is too hard for him, or it's not hard enough for him. Address this.

His behavior may warrant a call to CPS. It's worrisome that he's this disruptive and this focussed on forcing sex into his school assignments. It doesn't matter if her principal is useless - assuming that your friend is a mandatory reporter, she answers to a higher authority.

When he writes sex stories, he's doing it (at least in part) to get a rise out of you. Do not give him an audience for this. Do not give him the reaction he wants. Have a sit-down conference with him in which you address the quality of the essay and how much it fits or does not fit the assignment. Drain the fun from his hijinks. Turn them into an educational experience that forces him to work more, not less.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:02 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Please pardon me for speaking directly to your friend.

Every single specific thing you report that this kid did has sexual content, and some of that content, if not all of it, is directed at you.

He doesn't really sound all that narcissistic, he sounds like some kind of sexual aggressor.

Do not be alone with him after school or during school unless there's someone within shouting distance who is fully capable of coming to your assistance -- he's already established that he won't listen when you tell him no.

Find out who in your district deals with kids who act out sexually and take this to him or her.

I just don't think you can deal with this alone.
posted by jamjam at 7:24 PM on March 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

It's all very well and good that your friend wants to "help" this kid. But speaking as a former "one of the other kids in the class whose time is being wasted while the teacher deals with that jackass", she is prioritizing this one kid over the rest of the class, and they notice that - and a lot of them really don't appreciate it.

I cannot begin to tell you how many class periods I suffered through when I had a teacher who was trying to "engage" with problem students, sitting there feeling trapped and doing nothing while the teacher tried to deal with that one kid yet again, knowing that we had a test coming up and we still hadn't covered the material because the teacher was trying to "relate" to that one same guy, and I always, always would end up thinking "oh my god why don't you just EXPELL his ass so the rest of us can finally start doing something instead of you totally wasting my time like this".

It's insulting to the other kids, and they know it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 PM on March 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

I agree with jamjam. He is sexually harassing his teacher and she is letting him get away with it because he's special. Your friend is doing him a grave disservice. He will leave her classroom thinking he can treat women anyway he wants because he is bright, special, downtrodden, blah, blah.blah.

They other kids in the class probably think he is a jerk and that she is just another adult who can't really help them.

She needs more help at this point than the students. I am assuming that she is on the younger side as a teacher which can complicate things. He may have a really big crush going on but since he is special he deals with it poorly.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:26 PM on March 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I taught in one of the roughest schools ever. And I had problems with smart-ass students. Some I handled well, some I did not.

Your friend may not be able to save this kid, and it's irresponsible of her for letting her classroom devolve into a gross, over-sexualized, back-and-forth with this kid.

A LOT of us got into teaching because we liked school, and because we saw all those movies about great teachers swooping in and uplifting under-privilaged youth. To Sir With Love, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, etc.

The problem is that in the fiction, EVERY kid is being uplifted. In real life, you reach a few of the kids.

If you want a fictional eye-opener that tells the REAL story, watch the 4th season of The Wire. One kid comes out of that experience ahead, the rest, well, they don't.

I too urge caution. I once found out that I had 4 kids in my class who were all confined to a group-home for youthful sex offenders. Interestingly enough, no one thought that it was information that I should know about.

Even if the school is poor at handing out discipline, your friend needs to go through the motions.

One thing that worked great for me was to have the kid removed from class to internal suspension until the parents/guardian/guardian ad litem would meet with me and the kid's AP to discuss inappropriate behavior and how I wouldn't tolerate it.

I left teaching out of frustration, so I totally get where your friend is coming from, but she needs to realize that while she's dicking around with this tool, there are 35 other kids getting absolutely NOTHING out of her class.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: a bit more info for anyone checking back or still answering -

- it's a community college (sorry about the mistake), not a main branch, and with a recently fired director, no replacement for the foreseeable future. Just a secretary and a very old security guard
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 8:08 PM on March 13, 2013

Okay. So I'm the teacher. I just joined to address everyone's issues.

1) It's community college. I teach at a small branch, where our director just got fired so it's literally me, the academic counselors/registrars, a secretary, and other teachers. And a 70-something security guard.

2) I don't feel BAD for this kid, I just know he's smart, and if he wasn't such an ass, he could be a productive student.

3) I don't spend time on him to the detriment of other students; I largely ignore him so as not to "reward" him with attention. And it's not that I think he's distracting other students (except one or two of his friends) because he's not loud, and he's not always talking. It's about 1-2 comments per 90 minute class. The rest of the class, I'm sure, is doing just fine. It's also all males (lucky me).

4) I'm aware it's sexual harassment. There were also some other -- more subtle -- incidents I didn't mention to my friend (the original poster).

5) I finally went to main campus today and asked them what to do because I cannot physically take away a student's phone or force him to move chairs. (Obviously I TOLD him to move, I didn't ask. I'm not meek.) But if I tell him, and he doesn't move, he's getting power over me. They told me to talk to him one-on-one.

6) Talked to student one-on-one today. He came into our scheduled meeting 15 minutes late, on a phone call. Apparently he's using his phone during class to "run a business." I can only guess what it is. He seemed baffled that using cell phones in class was against the rules, and told me his sexual comments were jokes. I told him they were inappropriate, distracting, and potentially career-ruining should they lead to a misplaced rumor. He was very well-behaved during today's class. Don't know if that will continue, though, but I hope so.

7) I didn't say "when things are easy or when you fuck up" or whatever i wrote to my friend. again, of course not. I said something like "when things are easy or when you mess them up," and his response, I believe, was "I don't remember things when I fuck them up, I remember things when I fuck them."

8) My goal in asking people these questions was because I don't really think getting kicked out teaches him anything. I wanted to find a way to actually make him change the behavior, not just remove the "problem" from my class.

Hope that satisfies all of the posters above.

And if you gave helpful comments, I really appreciate it.
posted by threedemons at 8:16 PM on March 13, 2013

Got it and understand you don't want to throw him out, and that you can't send him to the principal.

Here's the thing: I know you want to help him, but that's not your job. He's an adult who is sexually harassing you and creating a hostile work environment. This is no reflection on your teaching ability. This grown-ass man is an asshole and you know you can't fix him, right?

But you can have him removed from your class.

In that case I assume you have both a school's code of discipline about sexual harassment as well as laws protecting you from sexual harassment.

Someone (not you) needs to speak with him directly addressing that, and that he will be subject to whatever consequences follow for sexually harassing anyone at school.
posted by kinetic at 3:10 AM on March 14, 2013

Thank you for clarifying, the community college angle colors things differently.

2) I don't feel BAD for this kid, I just know he's smart, and if he wasn't such an ass, he could be a productive student.

Right, but his apparent potential is a red herring. Generally speaking, you are what you do. He is not applying himself, and he is being a behavioral problem. He will never be the productive student until he gets a kick in the pants to straighten out. Likewise, even if he did not have the signs of being a "smart" student, he would still deserve your help, simply by being your student.

Right now, has constructed an identity of being a (self-appointed) smartass. He has a captive audience in the classroom. He needs to learn that this identity will collapse outside of that context. He also needs to learn that the way he talks about women and sex will make him, at best, a laughingstock in the real world.

He already thinks of himself as being inappropriate and distracting. He thinks he's a shock jock or whatever. He needs to learn that his current behavior is actually just sad, and that it will hamper him in life. It sounds like you're already working on this with him.

8) My goal in asking people these questions was because I don't really think getting kicked out teaches him anything. I wanted to find a way to actually make him change the behavior, not just remove the "problem" from my class.

I totally understand, but you need to consider measures between mere words and true expulsion.

I'm not sure what sort of program you teach at community college, but if I had been behaving that way in college, I imagine a first offense would have gotten me a one-on-one warning, and that subsequent offenses would have included threats (or realities) of being told to leave that particular session early if I could not behave myself.

Do you really, truly do not have the power to eliminate him even from particular sessions - as in, you would get in trouble for even telling him that his behavior has made him unwelcome in class for that particular day? If so, then he at least needs to be aware that he will not be able to pass if he cannot focus in class - that he will get the help he needs when he follows the simple classroom rules, but that if he refuses to follow those rules, then you will be unable to help him.

Ultimately, though, you also need to think about how you can't blame yourself if this kid chooses to remain a screw-up. He is who he is and he is making his own choices. You can advise him and nudge him and prod him and push him, but it's all up to him.

My teacherly SO isn't here right now, so this is all just my inexpert thinking. Best of luck with this, and thanks for showing interest in trying to help someone out.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:36 AM on March 14, 2013

Yes, the fact that this is a community college does clarify things (I was thinking you were a high school teacher).

However, that does raise the point that that's all the more reason that he should be held more accountable for his conduct because he is a legal voting adult, and as such he should know better that you don't pull that shit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:40 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I were in a community college class and these shenanigans were going on, I would report *you* for allowing them to happen. It is impossible to imagine how this situation is not detrimental to the rest of the class. When you ask how to "handle" him in class, that is time that you are proposing to take away from the rest of the students who are paying to be there, period.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:09 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of my mentor teachers always reminds me that when you argue for your limitations you get to keep them. That is something I think about when I'm in situations like this... What power do I have that I'm refusing to see because I don't want to be a bitch of because I'm afraid of the consequences?

I feel like you are painting yourself into a corner here because you aren't seeing that dropping from your class DOES teach him something --- you don't get to act out sexually and disrupt others' learning without consequence.
posted by spunweb at 4:13 PM on March 15, 2013

Oh, well that's very different. Fail his ass. Kick him out when he acts in appropriately.

Because in the real world, he'd be fired.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:27 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

coming back in with a follow up response to the teacher hirself:

My goal in asking people these questions was because I don't really think getting kicked out teaches him anything.

It does teach him something, though. It teaches him that his negative actions have negative consequences.

Whether that is the lesson he learns from this action would be his problem, not yours.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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