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It is expected that by the time students reach college they will know how to behave in a classroom. Unfortunately, college instructors often experience, on a daily basis, students who are chronically late, who talk to friends during class, who eat or sleep in class, and who engage in arguments with instructors or other students. Although disruptive behaviors have annoying or disrespectful qualities, these behaviors may be due to underlying emotional distress. Each type of disruptive behavior requires a different set of responses by the university. Rebellious and escalating disruptions need to be addressed behaviorally through disciplinary action, whereas disruptive behavior precipitated by emotional distress may require consultation with counseling staff.
- Invite the student to speak in a private area (if you feel safe). Acknowledge the emotions if the student seems upset, angry, or frustrated.("Sarah, I notice you seem frustrated.").
- Briefly state your concern. ("Sarah, I am concerned that you have been late for class every day since the beginning of the semester.").
- Let the student talk, ask for clarification if necessary. (I am not sure what you mean by it 'not getting through.' Could you tell me more?").
- Focus on the behavior and clearly state the expectations and that the consequences of continued disruption may result in disciplinary action. ("if you continue to disrupt the class by coming in late and greeting your friends, I will have to report this to the department chair and you may be removed from my class.").
- If unsure how to proceed in a particular situation, consult with your department head, the Office of the Dean of Students, 406-657-1619, and/or Student Health Services 406-657-2153.
- Becoming defensive or getting into an argument or shouting match.
- Acting hostile or punitive. ("I'm going to have you thrown out of this class!")
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