Thursday, February 19, 2009

If You Ask Me, Students Should Get Kicked out of School For Stuff Like This

We were supposed to have a snow day today. My office-mate--a man known as The Official Winter Weather Oracle, a man who monitors all the weather websites, all the forecasts, all the dopplers, all the bands and patterns--told me we'd have the day off today. "There is no way I will see you tomorrow," he said. "Just won't happen."

But this morning when Abbey bounced on me at 7:00 AM, I looked out the window and saw that the predicted six to twelve inches hadn't manifested. Instead, there was a pretty, wet coating that clung to the branches of the trees. I went back to bed knowing my office-mate was already on his way to school and that we would see each other, and we'd be pretty grumpy about it.

Turns out there were many other things to be grumpy about. By the end of the day, I would be sitting at a local sandwich shop across from one of the adjuncts and telling her that there were members of my class of auto boys that made me want to thrust a pencil straight into my eye socket.

I was saying this for a very good reason. Earlier, during class, this student had spent an entire hour and a half playing computer games when he was supposed to be working on his latest technical document. I was floating around the classroom helping the other students and when I saw the games I told him to stop it, told him to get working, but he didn't. And the next time I saw him playing games I said, "You know what? I don't care. Do what you want. It's your choice how to spend your time. If you want to play video games and ignore your work, that's your choice. We'll see how that goes for you."

And I didn't say anything else to him for a long time. He kept fooling around--playing games, looking at You Tube videos--and then, in the last hour of class he finally got around to writing five sentences.

"Hey," he said when he finished his sentences. "Look at this."

I was working with another student. Other hands were wagging across the room, waiting for me to make my way to them. "Okay," I said, "but I need to take care of the other students before I get to you. They were first." It was only fair. They'd been doing their work. They'd been waiting for me to get around to them.

And so I moved on to one. I sat down and started reading the student's paper, suggesting a few page design modifications, but then I heard the auto boy muttering. His muttering wasn't exactly sly, quiet, private. It was loud enough that I could hear him on the other side of the room.

"Is my skin black?" he said to his friends. "I mean, my skin must be black because she sure as hell doesn't ever spend any fucking time over here helping me."

The room froze. I suddenly became aware of every muscle in my body. Each one was coiled, ready to unfurl and spin me around to face him. I took a deep breath and turned around in my seat.

"Stop it!" I said. "Just stop it! I cannot believe you'd even talk like that in my classroom. I can't believe you'd ever say something like that!"

He just stared at me.

"You can leave," I said. "Get out. Right now."

"Yeah, okay," he said, slamming his books around.

I turned back to the student I'd been helping. He was looking down at the keyboard, embarrassed. And I understood that embarrassment. It is embarrassing to hear your college instructor yell at someone. It is embarrassing to watch a nineteen year old get reprimanded. And none of the students in that room had paid their money to enroll in a class where that kind of behavior is allowed.

Never once did I ever see someone get yelled at in college. Never once did one of my professors have to stop a lecture to throw a student out of class. Never once. That's high school bullshit. I was always horrified and embarrassed when one of our high school teachers had to stop and tell one of the mean boys or one of the dirty girls to stop, to get out, to go down to the principal's office. The student getting yelled at would always throw a mini-tantrum--toss a few books to the floor, kick the garbage can on the way out, pound a fist into the wall--and then the teacher would have to take a deep breath--count to ten as quickly as humanly possible--and then somehow go back to the lesson. And that, too, was awkward and embarrassing--after all, here we were, the students who knew not to act like idiots, and we had to pretend that we hadn't just witnessed some massive act of idiocy and that we hadn't seen our teacher's carefully-constructed exterior crack a little when he or she had to yell, scream, or bark out commands that shouldn't have to be given anyway.

And so my classroom simmered in that embarrassment for a minute or two while the angry student gathered his things and left the classroom. And when he was gone, I didn't have the luxury of taking a single second to calm myself. Time was winding down, and I still had a lot of students to visit, to check on before we left for the day. I just had to turn back around and pick up right where I left off with the serious student, the one who had done his work and waited patiently for my feedback. I had to hitch my voice back up to its normal level of pert and go on like nothing had happened, like we had not just witnessed something that has no business happening in a college classroom.


Kristin said...

GOOD FOR YOU. What a shit. That type of behavior, nor the shit that I put up with, should be tolerated. OMG I want to kick him just from reading this!

Nathan said...

Good for you to kick him out. And yes, he should be kicked out of college for crap like that.

On the chance that he comes back or doesn't drop your class, you might mention something to your department chair or the Dean of Students, because they probably have cause for disciplinary action.

Jason said...

It's terrible when one ass-crack can kill your mood for a whole day. I expect this now--not because it should be expected, but because it happens every semester.

Then again, I worked a shift at Book Store today, and it turns out someone took a shit on the men's room floor.

It's not just students.

I hate people.

Jess said...

Oh my God, Jason. Seriously.