Jan 11, 2013

What Would You Do?

A colleague of mine, who is currently looking for permanent work, e-mailed me the other day with a simple question:

What would you do if a student told you to fuck off?

A friend of hers was asked this as an interview question. As I was writing my response, I felt inadequate to answer the question. There are so many variables at play in a classroom, that to know what I’d do, is inauspicious. That said, in an interview, I’ve never met a question for which I didn’t have an answer.

So, I wrote back:

To be honest, that’s a tough question. I’d probably answer it like this:

Any reaction like that from a student requires consequences. No doubt about it. That said, learning is all about relationships. Sending a student down to the VP changes the relationship I have with that student. It might even undermine that relationship. So, how would I move forward? I can only assume that the reaction is from a build-up of frustration from the student and not an “out of the blue” eruption. I’d take a breathe. I’d tell the student to take a break, wait outside, or something like that. After ten minutes or so, I’d try to have a conversation with the student that begins, “I’m sorry that you are frustrated. We are going to deal with your frustration, but for us to be able to move forward, we need to make sure we both have respect for each other. In saying that, I’ve never sworn at you. I’d appreciate it, if you apologized for swearing.” In having the conversation, I’d try to address the frustration the student is having, and then offer them the chance to define a consequence for swearing. To apologize is not a consequence. At this point, repairing the relationship is my first priority.

I don’t know, that would be my approach. I’m not sure if I’d get the job, but that’s what I’d do, or at least, hope to do.

I’d love to know if I’m alone on this one or if anyone has an alternative approach.

What would you do?

1 Comment

  • I often have a problem with these style of interview questions. My problem is that they presuppose that every student is the same and that our reaction is a standardized response. And, that to me is a HUGE problem with education. We are human beings as to are our students. Whether we admit it or not, our relationships differ depending on our relationship with them.

    There are students whom I am have taught various times and yet I would still feel awkward using humour as a means of dealing with them. Yet, there are students for whom that technique would work best.

    I think if you are a good teacher you know how to deal with that situation at that given time, because if you know your students you know how to communicate with them.

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