Classroom Management

Classroom Management

Verbal or Physical Threats
Verbal or physical threats are serious matters. If or when a student makes a threat toward you of a verbal or physical nature you should contact Campus Police (ext. 3595) immediately to report the incident.
Sexual Innuendo, Flirting, or Other Inappropriate Suggestions

This behavior should be curbed as soon as it occurs. It's never comfortable to tell a student that they aren't being appropriate and if you are uncomfortable, a short, positive e-mail or phone call might suffice.

Your response should not be judgmental and you might discuss it with your department chair and/or the Vice President for Student Services before broaching it with your student.

"Spacing Out" or Sitting With Back to Instructor
If this is a repeated problem, students need to know that their non-verbal behavior is perceived as disinterest. You might ask them after class if they need a more comfortable seat. Some students are extremely shy and it might take half of the semester before they open up enough to make sustained eye contact or face the instructor completely. Remember also that sustained eye contact is a culturally dictated practice that might not be feasible for some students.

Plagiarism or Lying
Students guilty of plagiarism or lying (which is considered academic misconduct), either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are immediately responsible to the instructor of the class. In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions which may be imposed through the regular institutional procedures as a result of academic misconduct, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or a zero for the exercise or examination or to assign an "F" in the course. Plagiarism should be outlined in your syllabus with a reference for students to the Student Handbook for more information. Refer to the Student Conduct and Disciplinary Sanctions policy (VSCC Policy III:00:05).
Sharing/Copying Work
In some cultures, students work together to produce homework. It may come as a shock to these students that they cannot submit identical work. This may also come as a surprise to couples, parent-child, siblings, or close friends. Be careful to give thought to how you will handle this before you encounter it and react as if it were intentional cheating. This can also occur when the class does a great deal of group work. Make sure you are clear about what is individual vs. group work in your assignments.
Disrespectful Behavior
The reality is that sometimes students will not like you. You will find yourself in a conversation with yourself about why they don't like you and treat you with disrespect. Animosity will perpetuate itself so remember your role and look for a way to positively invite the student to engage more deeply in the class. Perhaps offer them a special task based on a self-disclosed talent.
Undermining the Instructor's Authority
This is tricky as it speaks to "attitude". A student might belittle the instructor or engage in a battle of the wills. This student would need to be privately told that their attitude was confrontational and asked how this might be resolved mutually. Be careful not to read most questions about content, interpretation, or assignments as a challenge of authority. Acting as if they are not trying to undermine your authority, even when you suspect they are, can convey a sense of confidence and control. Sometimes merely assuring the student, while smiling, that you have indeed reflected on this issue at length, and that they too will understand soon why the information or the assignment is valuable should diffuse the situation. You may even want to encourage them to ask the question again at a later date if necessary.
Refusal to Participate or Speak
You cannot force students to speak in class nor participate in group projects. This can be addressed and become a win-win situation by either giving the student alternative options to verbal participation (unless it's a speech class) or simply and carefully coaxing some response out of them and praising whatever minimal effort you receive from them. Remember, some students are terrified to be in a class setting - especially if there are round tables rather than desks - allowing for little anonymity.
Monopolizing Discussions
This is common but manageable. Many students are excited and talkative so it might be good to give them a few class periods to settle in. However, if it's evident right away that this is a trend, it's best to ask them to stay after class. You might approach them initially by saying that you are pleased with the amount of enthusiasm they have for discussion but were hoping that they have suggestions for getting the other class members equally involved. The student will most likely get your drift with minimal humiliation.
Repeated Tardiness
There should be clear parameters set around this issue up front - either in your syllabus or in the class decided norms. Stick to the policy. Some fair policies might include 3 tardies equals one absence. It might be best to discuss this with students individually; some are habitually late because they are dependent on other drivers for transportation to school.
Too Much Chit-Chat
Give 2-minute chat times for groups or before class begins and let them know you have material to be covered and their talking isn't helping you achieve your goals for the class. Know too that some students occasionally translate a word or phrase to a classmate who might not have as strong an understanding of the English language. Be patient and observant when curbing this behavior.
Leaving Class too Frequently
Camps are divided as to whether or not students should ask for permission to leave for bathroom breaks or wait for a break in the class. This is a contentious issue for some faculty when breaks are taken too frequently. You might privately ask the student if everything is okay so they know you are concerned by their behavior. Don't assume disrespect - it might be a physical problem.
Sleeping in Class
Sleeping in class is usually considered rude. Most faculty believe it should not be tolerated and is best curbed up front by waking a sleeping student and asking them to step outside the classroom with you. You can inform the student it may be best for the rest of the class if they return when they are awake enough to be an active participant. This occurs from time to time and you obviously are the one to choose lenience or punitive action. You can always give them an option of an extra credit research assignment they can bring to your next class period covering the subject matter they missed while they were sleeping. An alternative approach is to assume that the student does not feel well, was up most of the night with a sick child, or has some other condition resulting in sleepiness when they are still for long periods of time. You might simply choose to wake the student and ask if they are feeling alright. Your approach should be one of true concern for the student's health and well being. Most of the time, students are so embarrassed and so appreciative of your genuine concern they don't let it happen again. Encourage students to actively participate, take notes (explain this is helpful to their learning as it stimulates memory in the brain) and in particularly long classes break up the session with activities or paired conversations about a topic to ensure that students stay engaged.
Poor Hygiene (possible cultural considerations)
Poor hygiene, too much perfume, cigarette odor or other strong odors can be distracting or even nauseating to students. The cause for the odor might be culturally based in bathing preferences between cultures. This can be a real problem for some faculty while others will never encounter the dilemma. Let the offending student know that in close quarters, some students have issues with strong smell. It might be suggested that for the course (not their outside of class lives) that the odor be masked in some way.
Gum, Food, and Mobile Device Disruption
Consequences for breaking this policy might range from the loss of participation points to the offender having to present on a topic of interest to the class. Some instructors allow mobile devices to be on the vibrate setting as long as they are attended to at the break rather than used when it interrupts the class. Instructors need to abide by this rule as well and allow for at least one mistake per student as accidents do happen from oversight. The idea here is to prevent habitual disruption from gum popping and phones ringing.