Responding to Challenging Students and Students-At-Risk
Things to watch for in yourself:
1. What are you feeling?
Frustrated, annoyed, angry, anxious, fearful, stressed, out-of-control, intimidated, tired, hungry, alone
2. What is your gut reaction? Fight or flight?
In most cases, though you may want to fight or flee, neither of these behaviors will be effective.
3. Are you in a good space to handle this situation? Are you rested, patient, ready to surrender, not in a place of needing to control? Are you prepared to listen and work at understanding the students feelings?
4. Do you have the time to spend with the student?
Things to watch for in others:
1. What is the student feeling?
Consider: Hopeless, frustrated, exasperated, angry, defeated, helpless, victimized
2. Hopelessness: I give up Whats the point of anything?
3. What is the body language? Does the students body seem agitated? Examples: hand-wringing, pacing, lip-biting, scratching
4. What is the tone of voice?
5. Is the student displaying bizarre or unusual behavior or language?
6. Is the students speech overly rambling or incoherent?
7. Has the student made direct or indirect (veiled) comments about death or violence?
--You'd better watch out.
--Now I know why people shoot other people.
--The world would be better off without me.
8. Harassing behaviore-mail, letters, phone calls
9. Reference to weapons
10. Social isolation or withdrawal
11. Escalating emotion or behavior
12. Inability to sleep/excessive sleeping
13. Recent loss of something important (e.g., marriage, relationship, job)
(27% of college students attempting suicide reported a relationship breakup in the past 60 days)
14. Poor personal hygiene
15. Change in physical appearance and behavior
16. Irritability, aggressiveness, agitation, nonstop talking
17. Unexplained crying
18. Loss of appetite/excessive appetite
19. Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that arent there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality or probability)
20. Suspiciousness, feeling persecuted
21. Low self-esteem, shame, guilt
22. Decline in academic performance
23. Class absences
24. Disruptive behavior in class
25. Loss of interest or motivation
26. Problems with memory or attention span
27. Indications of excessive drinking or drug use
28. Excessive dependency (e.g., the student who hangs around you or makes excessive appointments to see you)
Things to avoid doing (a.k.a., you could be a part of making it worse):
1. Ignoring the situation
2. Escalatingthreatening, humiliating, intimidating the student, pulling rank
3. Premature problem-solving
4. Quoting policy too early
5. Isolating yourself
6. Trying to bring things to closure too quickly
7. Being stressed out yourself
10. Assuming the student is just manipulating you
11. Passing the buck, a.k.a., giving the student the runaround, dumping, referring the student to another office when youre not sure that office is the place that can help
Things to do:
1. Safety comes first. If you sense danger, maintain your escape routes. In a crisis, call 5-0911 for a security officer.
2. Define your role. Who is in the best position to approach the student? What are your own limits?
3. Address the student as soon as possible after the behavior begins. Do so respectfully, do everything you can to avoid embarrassing the student. Try to talk to the student in private (e.g., in your office). Share your concern for them. Mention you have noticed a change in behavior and that you wonder if there is something going on in their life that has affected them. Offer to provide resources or a listening ear, if you feel comfortable with such a role.
4. In cases of disruptive behavior, try to usher the student into a private place. (If you feel the student might be dangerous, stay in a more public place.) Be clear about what behavior is unacceptable. You may need to state some possible consequences if the behavior continues (removed from class for the day, conduct charges, participation grade affected). As a next step, you might want to put in writing your expectations for class behavior and potential consequences. Hand this letter to the student, keep a copy for yourself. Be respectful at all times. In extreme situations: If the behavior persists and disrupts class, you may ask the student to leave. If the student refuses, you might contact Campus Safety at 5-0911.
5. Breathe. Breathe again. Nice, deep, slow breaths. Keep breathing.
6. Give the student time. You may need to re-prioritize other responsibilities.
7. Ask direct questions. Ask students if they are confused. Reflect the students feelings. Work to understand. Clarify. Paraphrase the students concerns, work to be sure you understand and the student knows youre working to understand. Watch for confirmation clues (e.g., head nods, verbal affirmations) that your understanding is accurate.
8. Assess risk level. Ask the student directly if he/she has thoughts of harming himself/herself or someone else. If so, ask if there is a plan? What is the plan? What stops the student from carrying out the plan? Has the student attempted suicide before? You wont put ideas in their head by asking questions.
9. Consider possible referral sources. Think about the students level of service support at Oregon Tech. Are they aware of necessary services? Hooked up? In need of regular contact with someone? Has the student felt frustrated by someone at the college? Consider referring the student to that persons supervisor.
10. Make an effective referral. Refer the student to the Vice President for Student Affairs (5-1011), the Counseling Service (5-1015), or another resource. Its often a good idea to call that office to schedule an appointment or walk the student over to talk with staff. 11. Document all disruptive behavior, and report it to your supervisor. The Vice President for Student Affairs (5-1011) should be notified of all disruptive behavior, even if the behavior seems minor.
12. If you think the student might have a disability, consult with the Disability Services Office at 5-1031.
13. Consult with your peers. Consult with a counselor. Consult with someone.
14. Recognize recurrent student problems and your own frustrations; work to resolve recurrent issues. These may involve systemic issues for your department, or may be manifestations of issues for you personally.
15. Give yourself time and space to resolve the issue, generate options, get support. A web resource that offers more detail on how to intervene with distressed students "http://www.indiana.edu/~caps/distressed/index.htm">http://www.indiana.edu/~caps/distressed/index.htm
Examples of statements for class syllabi
(Adapted from: Dealing with Disruptive Student, Office of Student Life, U of O)
Classroom participation is a part of your grade in this course. Questions and comments must be relevant to the topic.
You are expected to be on time. Packing up your things early is disruptive to others around you and to myself.
Classroom discussion should be respectful to everyone and relevant to the discussion topic.
Raise your hand to be recognized in class discussion.
Continued disruption of class will result in a report to the Vice President for Student Affairs, who has responsibility for enforcing OITs Student Conduct Code. After one warning, if the disruption continues, you will be asked to leave the classroom for the remainder of the period.
You are expected to do your own work. Cheating, plagiarism and any other form of academic dishonesty (see also the Oregon Tech Student Conduct Code) will not be tolerated. Penalties that could be issued to you should you be found guilty of academic dishonesty include assignment of an F grade and referral to the Student Hearing Commission.