Meeting With a Disruptive Student
How this meeting goes will depend upon your interpersonal skills as well as the student’s ability to develop rapport and participate in a calm discussion.
Consider having someone else present, such as a supervisor, department or office head.
If you feel threatened by the student, keep your office door open or meet in a conference room so that others can hear. Let others know when and where you will be having the meeting.
Remain calm. This may be difficult if the student is agitated. However, your reasoned response will help establish a constructive tone and avoid aggravating the student further.
Take a non-defensive stance, and convey your interest and concern to the student. Include a discussion of the student’s educational objectives and aspirations. Try to understand where the student is coming from and, if possible, to reach a mutual understanding.
Ask questions and summarize what you hear the student saying. Respectful concern as an educator may enable you to help the student to be successful both in your class and in the University.
Be specific about the inappropriate behavior that the student has exhibited. Focus on the behavior, not the person. Explain why the behavior is problematic.
Highlight areas or agreement between you and the student. For example, you both want the student to do well in the class.
Conclude by summarizing any resolution, and by clearly articulating your expectations and the consequences for the persistence of disruptive behavior. Consider putting these expectations in writing and providing copies to the student and the department head.
If the student is irrational or threatening, then it’s critical to involve others. You may decide that, for your safety and well being, the situation has moved out of your hands. In this case, the Office of Student Life and Department of Public Safety may need to get involved.
Document the meeting afterward and provide a copy to your department head.
If it doesn’t go well because the student is entrenched in a mindset, perhaps irrationally angry, you should nonetheless feel good about the fact that you made an attempt to meet the student in an empathic and respectful way.
Debrief difficult interactions with a colleague or supervisor afterward to get a “reality check” and emotional support.