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Reeling from a Run-In With an Angry Student Kimberly Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of North Dakota, is a first-year English teacher at Valley Middle School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Kimberly and and her mentor, Laurie Stenehjem, share their journal entries with Education World readers in alternating weeks.

I'm having difficulty pinpointing exactly how I feel about a situation that occurred last week. I suppose the words frustrated, confused, and uncertain come close enough.

One of my students (I'll call him Jake), a young man struggling to manage his anger, was on his worst behavior last week. In the past, I've seen him push other students or throw objects when he loses his temper, and he makes me nervous. I've worked very hard, however, not to show him any fear and to stay calm when he's in one of his moods.

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The school district recently asked all language arts teachers to collect a special writing sample from all their students. Jake didn't like the assignment and did all he could to get out of writing it. One day, after I told him to stop talking and give the other students a quiet writing environment, Jake ran both his middle fingers down his face in a subtle attempt to challenge me. I calmly walked him to the office.

That afternoon, Jake confronted me while I was standing outside my classroom, monitoring the kids as they prepared to go home. His face grew red as he demanded to know why I had embarrassed him by sending him to the office. He wouldn't let me talk; he snapped at me every time I opened my mouth. Another teacher walked by while we were standing there, and I suggested that he walk out with her. Luckily, she caught on and made sure he was out the door before she headed back to her classroom.

The next day, our principal talked to Jake about not coming to my room between classes or after school (which he does frequently). Despite that talk, Jake and a couple of his friends (also my students) came to my room on Friday, 40 minutes after school ended; they wouldn't leave until another teacher heard me ordering them out and came and removed them. I'm ashamed to say that I gave Jake exactly what he wanted by becoming angry. But isn't this behavior harassment?

Now I have to find a way to deal with the situation before Jake's behavior gets completely out of control and affects other students' learning. But what is the best way to handle it? I worry about what this week will bring; I hope we can resolve the issue quickly so that Jake can get the help he needs, and I can get the peace of mind I need.


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Article by Kimberly Johnson
Education World®
Copyright © 2002 Education World

1/31/2002