But what do we do when we get students who come to class with a proverbial “chip on their shoulder” that leads to grumbling and complaining about every aspect of the class? Here are a couple reminders that might be helpful.
- Think Prevention: The easiest way to deal with frustrated students is to avoid giving them anything to complain about in the first place. Preparation is central to this.
Get to class early enough to get the computer and projector fired up; have the mannequins, AEDs and first aid supplies ready to go; and be psychologically ready to begin the class. We can’t predict every problem that may occur, but we can certainly minimize them with a little forethought in our class preparation.
- Lombardi Time: Coined by American football coaching legend, Vince Lombardi, “Lombardi Time” requires showing up to meetings, classes, appointments, etc. at least 15 minutes early. Another way to think about it is, “to be early is to be on time; to be on time is to be late”.
We have an expectation that our students will show up for class on time, and they have an expectation that class will start and end on time. There will undoubtedly be instances when students show up late, but this should not prevent us from starting class as scheduled. We can always catch a tardy student up later with what was missed, but it’s unfair to the students who showed up on time to delay starting class for a late student.
Most people plan their lives around schedules, and when we run long on our training we can create timing issues with work, baby-sitters, meal preparation, etc. for our students, so it’s also important that we do our best to end class no later than the scheduled time.
These two simple actions may completely disarm many potential student frustrations.
- Go with the Flow: Keep in mind that we may not be able to solve every problem right away. It may be best to table a concern until a break comes up when we can devote our full attention to the particular issue. Or, we may simply have to agree to disagree on a particular point and move on in the interest of maximizing class time.
- Take a Back Seat: We may find that the best solutions often come from other students rather than provided by us. For example, when a student asks what might be considered a provocative question, consider throwing the question back to the rest of the class and asking them, “What does everyone else think?”. This usually leads to active debate amongst the students while we take on more of a facilitator role to lead the discussion in the appropriate direction. Weigh this technique carefully, though, to avoid anarchy amongst the students.
- The Instructor Always Wins: In the end, we retain the ultimate responsibility to control our classroom. We always reserve the right to ask students to leave the classroom if they are disruptive. While this would certainly not be our first choice, it is an alternative we hold in our hip pocket if the need arises.
Now it’s your turn to share some of your ideas for working with irritated students. Take advantage of the “post a comment” option below to pass on what works for you. And next time we’ll look at some specific attributes of student behavior, so be on the lookout for my next post.
Jeff Myers Vice President – HSI