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  1. Handling Distracting & Annoying Behavior In & Out Of The Classroom Dr. Brian Van Brunt Director of Counseling WKU brian.vanbrunt@wku.edu • Laura Bennett, M.Ed • Student Conduct Officer at Harper • lauraaebennett@gmail.com

  2. Introduction Button Pushing! Understanding Motivation Customer Service Caring Limit Setting Creative Problem Solving

  3. Introduction • Welcome to the third of a three-part series addressing student behavior in and out of the classroom: • (1) Dangerous • Disruptive • Distracting/Annoying • Through a series of case scenarios and practical advice, we will share with you useful tools needed to identify, intervene and manage annoying student behaviors.

  4. Annoying Behaviors: Student is restless during community programs and lectures Student monopolizes staff/faculty time Student shows up late for class and is unprepared for the assignments being covered Student texts during class Student passes gas Student calls office continually, won’t be redirected Introduction

  5. Annoying Communications: Frequent asking of similar questions over and over again in class, doesn’t listen and comprehend, tunes out of conversations Interrupting others and talking about unrelated things Student sends multiple emails with poor grammar and selfish tone within seconds Challenges you publicly, threatens to sue you Introduction

  6. Dangerous Behavior Examples Physical assault such as pushing, shoving or punching Throwing objects or slamming doors Storming out of the classroom or office when upset Direct communicated threat to professor, staff or another student such as: “I am going to kick your ass.” Disruptive Behavior Examples Student misuse of technology in the classroom. Yelling/fighting Poor personal hygiene/body odor that “significantly disrupts learning environment” Sexual harassment Introduction

  7. Button Pushing! • Michelle • Michelle often talks to her friends in class and comes unprepared for class discussionsand quizzes. • She often participates in classroom discussion, but her comments are off-topic and ill-informed. • She talks back to the instructor in class and in her office and says, “I’m paying your salary. So you just stand up there and teach. Don’t worry about what I’m doing. You worry about yourself.”

  8. Button Pushing! • As the instructor, what bothers you most? • Lack of being prepared for class • The way her behaviors can frustrate others in the classroom • Rude communication with the professor • Wasted time on classroom management, taking away from content instructional time • Lack of participation and then when she does participate it is ill-informed and off-topic • The admissions department and the students they seem to be admitting to your college

  9. Button Pushing! • Where do we start? • Identify the things students do that • Push your buttons • Get under your skin • Make you see red • Drive you to reactive, rather than preventative solutions • Keep you up at night

  10. Button Pushing! • Where does this come from? • Why do we get upset? • Differences from your college experiences • Frustration that you behaved well, why can’t your students do the same? (“In my day…”) • Early family expectations around behavior, authority, performance and respect • Overworked, overstressed, overwhelmed • Don’t bring your “A” game • Sense of unfairness for other students

  11. Button Pushing! • What do you do? • Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts • Don’t feel pressured to solve problem ‘on the fly’ • Take each situation as a learning opportunity • Identify tendency to over-generalize or draw assumptions without evidence • Don’t expect perfection, 2 steps forward, 1 back • Understand Change Theory*

  12. Button Pushing! • Prochaska and DiClemente’s • Change Theory

  13. Understanding Motivation • Kyle • Kyle has a grating personality that tends to frustrate and annoy those who spend time around him. He makes off-color and immature jokes that often fall flat. He wears clothing with writing all over it and he exhibits odd behaviors such as tapping and kissing his gloves and notebook. • Few people can stand to spend time with Kyle. He drives potential friends away, frustrates his professors with off-topic questions and has difficulty getting along with other students in the dining hall and dormitory.

  14. Understanding Motivation • As a staff member, what bothers you most? • The difficulty trying to change a student like Kyle who is likely set in his ways • The fact that your suggestion didn’t work and Kyle repeated the behavior • The teasing that likely is occurring from other students • Kyle distracting the instructor from his lesson plans and taking learning opportunities away from the other students • Kyle's parents sent him to college without the skills to be successful

  15. Understanding Motivation • Why is understanding motivation important? • When we know why, we can better tailor and adjust our interventions to be more effective to address the problem at hand • When we assume motivation that isn’t accurate, we run the risk of using an intervention that doesn’t work • Keep in mind: Understanding motivation doesn’t mean not addressing the situation!

  16. Understanding Motivation • Why does Kyle behave this way? • He may have a developmental disorder like Asperger’s and has little control over how he approaches other students • He may have a history of being picked on, teased and bullied, he tried to cope by making friends • He may come from a small, introverted family and doesn’t have much experience in social settings • He may be self-centered, narcissistic and entitled

  17. Understanding Motivation • How does this impact our intervention? • (Asperger’s):Soft referral to ADA, social skills training, counseling, accommodations • (Bullied): Counseling support, awareness of teasing in classroom, connect to support clubs, organizations • (Introverted): Create opportunities for success, encourage positive social connection • (Self-centered): Firmer limit setting and setting expectations

  18. Understanding Motivation • How doesn’t this impact our intervention? • Conversation with student still needed • Feedback needs to be provided • A plan of action and resources to promote success need to be offered • Articulation of consequences of non-compliance still need to be communicated

  19. Customer Service • Susan • Once a semester, Susan calls the financial aid office looking for answers about financial aid. Her phone messages and demeanor are rambling, and the staff rarely understand her. • Only one staff member seems to be able to effectively redirect her. The others find her behavior odd and refuse to deal with her. • When Susan can’t resolve her issues, her mother gets involved. Susan’s mother is even more difficult to deal with, as she tends to escalate the situation.

  20. Customer Service • As the office staff, what bothers you most? • Annoyed that this seems to happen every semester • Frustrated to deal with both Susan and her mom • Frustrated that only one person is able to redirect her/assist her • Annoyed that Susan is still in school • Aggravated that Susan doesn’t take • responsibility for her own behavior

  21. Customer Service • What are the basic tenets of customer service? • Make an attempt to understand the reasons behind the concerning behavior. • Seek to be educational in conversations • Offer kindness and respect • Treat student how you want to be treated in a similar situation • Help the student solve the • problems or get information

  22. Customer Service • What are some limitations? • While it can be challenging and difficult to have these conversations, it is important to set limits with students if their behavior is of concern • Customer service in higher education does not translate to “the customer is always right.” You have rights in the workplace, and your campus has processes for addressing certain things • Everything we do has a developmentally focused educational component

  23. Customer Service • Narrative Therapy: Reframing • Narrative therapy introduces the concepts of helping students see their stories from a different perspective • The story doesn’t change, but how they think about it is shifted

  24. Narrative Therapy: Reframing Customer Service • A student comes back to school later in life and struggles with his workload and computer skills. He doesn’t think he has the skills to make it. • Many don’t have the courage to complete school later in life. With a little extra work, they can be successful.

  25. Customer Service • Helping students understand failure, difficulty and challenge as part of their journey in college is essential • Too often, students see failure as final and a sign of weakness, rather than a lesson • J.K. Rowling said at a Harvard 2008 commencement address, “It is impossible to live without failing at something."

  26. Customer Service • Encourage students to not dwell on failure • See challenges as something to learn from • Be connected to those who support positive choices, not negative ones • Expect challenges to occur; perfection isn’t a goal • Talk to parents and others about past failures • Assess where the student’s energy is going; focus on successes and build from those

  27. Caring Limit Setting • Jonathan • Jonathan comes to the Dean of Students’ office on a daily basis. After he had an issue that he received help with, he finds that the office staff are helpful and supportive. • Jonathan doesn’t have a lot of friends and feels like the Dean of Students’ staff listen to him. He often spends 45 minutes at a time talking to the reception staff. He makes appointments with the Dean every few days and doesn’t usually have much substance to discuss, at least according to the Dean. • No one wants to hurt his feelings, but they are frustrated.

  28. Caring Limit Setting • What bothers you most? • Jonathan is nice, but annoying • Having to be the bad guy • “Clingy” students • Discomfort about approaching the conversation • Not sure what you can do because you don’t want to refer to conduct

  29. Caring Limit Setting • Why is limit setting important? • People rise to the level of your expectations • If you are a teacher, remember the student usually has several teachers in a given semester • We all have different pet peeves – if a student doesn’t know what yours are, he/she can’t avoid them • You will sleep better • If a student doesn’t know what he/she is doing wrong, the behavior won’t change

  30. Caring Limit Setting • How to set limits well • Establish rapport using your strengths • Be real in your approach, not on a pedestal • Align yourself with the student, articulating why you care and how this conversation promotes success • Describe the behavior – use specific examples • Describe the impactsof the behavior • Listen to the student’s perspective and motivation

  31. Caring Limit Setting • How to set limits well • Describe what appropriate behavior looks like • Offer resources and ways you can be supportive • Discuss a plan of action • Describe consequences for non-compliance • Summarize the conversation • Follow up in writing

  32. Creative Problem Solving • Dino • Dino is late to almost every class. He explains he has trouble getting up because he works the late shift at the factory and tries to sleep before class. • Dino shares with the professor he is struggling to keep up with the technology in class like checking email, sending in papers as an attachment and using cut and past on the online discussion forum. • Dino shares, “I was promised the school would work with me on these kind of things. I’m not some 18 year old kid who lives on Facebook. I have a family to keep up with and a job. I need a little understanding and some help.”

  33. Creative Problem Solving • As the instructor, what bothers you most? • Dino is trying to do too much and should take some time off of school • He expects you to solve his problems for him • Dino hasn’t taken any initiative on his own to seek out technology help or tutoring • You don’t have time to deal with Dino and his problems while keeping up with all of your other students • Dino is older and should have gotten this information before

  34. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Pre‐contemplation: At this stage, the student is unaware that there is a problem and hasn’t thought much about change • Dino: Dino may have been at this stage before the semester started when he thought about going back to school with a family, job and technology challenges

  35. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Pre‐contemplation Contemplation • Do not provide information (flyers/brochures) • Do not offer advice or direct feedback for change • Engage in open-ended questions; clarify mixed messages (Columbo) • Encourage student to explore and talk about their attitudes and beliefs without assumptions • Be a supportive listener, don’t offer answers or pressure to change

  36. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Contemplation: The student has thought about change and is getting ready for movement in the near future. The student realizes their current behavior is not in their best interest, but is not yet ready to begin their plan to change • Dino: Dino may realize now that things are not going well. He has been falling behind in his work (online forum) and he is aware the instructor is not happy with his attendance problems

  37. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Contemplation  Preparation for Action • Provide passive information (flyers/brochures) • Suggest “next-step” resources • Continue to engage in open-ended questions • Talk about fears and worries they have about changing their behavior • Be a supportive listener • Encourage and inspire hope for change

  38. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Preparation for Action: In this stage, the student is aware of a problem and is ready to actively create goals to address the problems in his life. • Dino: Dino might be at the cusp of this stage. He might be willing to try some new ideas (tutoring, technology help, talking to someone in counseling about his stress, meeting with other non-trad students). Be careful about jumping too quickly to this stage of change.

  39. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Preparation for Action  Action • Encourage and support • Expect obstacles and roadblocks • Be supportive in ways that encourage good choices and success as they begin to change • Talk about fears and worries they have about being successful • Redefine failure • Encourage and inspire hope for change

  40. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Action: This stage of change is where the student puts their plans into action in order to change behavior. • Dino: Assuming Dino is ready for change and begins to access tutoring, learn some new technology and better manage his stress; it is still likely he will struggle with making all of these changes successfully the first time out

  41. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Action  Maintenance and Relapse Prevention • Encourage and support • Have realistic understand of “two steps forward, one step back” • Help analyze what worked and what didn’t • Be creative about ways to adjust plan • Encourage to try, try again • Itsy-Bitsy spider

  42. Creative Problem Solving • Prochaska and DiClemente’sChange Theory • Maintenance and Relapse Prevention: Here the goal is to continue successful plans and repeat those action steps that work, while adjusting things that don’t. • Dino: The plan for Dino to improve attendance, learn how to use the discussion board and better manage his stress has worked and is either being maintained or slipping. The student is likely getting positive and negative feedback from others.

  43. Tips • Read your Student Code of Conduct and base syllabus language/office expectations off that • Meet with your Student Conduct staff and discuss the campus thresholds for formally reporting annoying vs. disruptive behaviors • Develop a detailed syllabus and spend time talking through it • Address behaviors in the moment

  44. Tips • Develop relationships with students so that the first conversation isn’t a “bad one” • Learn how to describe behaviors objectively and be consistent in your approach • Keep good documentation • Invest time in solutions, not in complaining • Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable, not to be evasive

  45. Summary • Things to do when working with annoying students • Listen and align with the student to promote success • Address the behavior, but support the person • Don’t assume students “know better” based on their gender, age, grades, or any other quality • Address low-level behaviors before they become a problem • Don’t assume you can pass off an issue to your conduct staff or BIT – usually you are the best one to address the behavior through a conversation with the student

  46. A Final Thought • Remember: • Students have a right to be odd • Students rise to the level of your expectations… • Or they may make your next decision an easy one

  47. Questions? Brian Van Brunt Laura Bennett brian.vanbrunt@wku.edulauraaebennett@gmail.com