Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Self Fulfilling Prophesy

I have every intention of writing about getting unrutted, but this was just too good to pass up.

Everyday, I walk around the room and pass the class assignment to each student. That way I can touch base with each of them, say hi, tell a joke or someone can discuss their crisis du jour.  For me, it's the way I break down that alienating institutional vibe that can settle in places on campus. This is how I know that Joe likes tattoos, and Jane listens to Death Cab for Cutie on her Ipod. I think this matters. And then today there was Ryan (not his real name, for obvious reasons). He looked a bit weird. I said "How are you doin' today Ryan?"
"Not that great." he replied
"Are you sick, Ryan?"
"Oh No"
"Hung-over?" This is not all that uncommon. And heck, this is university, this happens. Not that I think its know what I mean.
"Nope...I'm loaded" he slurred. Then I could smell him. His eyes were glazed. And then his Pepsi bottle of Orange juice looked really suspicious.
"Well you should go home then," I recommended. I said it low key, kindly. I suddenly felt uneasy, not wanting to piss him off and create a scene. He's about 6'2 - 180lbs  - at least.
"Nope, I came in for class, did my assignment and all..."

It suddenly became very awkward. Some students shifted uneasily in their seats. Being more insist and bold seemed the wrong thing to do at the moment. Ryan is a bit of a loud-mouth on the best of days. I was not sure whether or not this temperament would be magnified in his inebriation, and I was not about to experiment either.

I finished my round and went to the front of the room. I took attendance, and paid attention to    my reaction. My heart was pounding, hands shaking. I was afraid. I was not sure what to do. I played with the idea of just ignoring this, but this guy would have tried to work in a group situation. This was wrong on so many levels. And this was not the best time for me to play the wimp. I needed a plan - I was going to ask him to leave, and if he refused, I was going to leave the class and find a male professor to help. So I called him to the front of the room, He got dressed and left.


I am not naive. I know some kids come to class stoned, But to come in this state is just plain scary. This is probably indicative of a bigger problem, unfortunately for this student. I went to a higher authority and reported him. I've been trying to create an environment where students feel safe in expressing their views and opinions. The level of fear that I experienced was unacceptable.

And then I came home and chuckled that my little daydream, turned out to be a bit of a premonition. Whodathunk?

I should write more about winning the lottery.    


Candace said...

Yikes! Clarification point: when you say "he got dressed", what exactly do you mean?

Heather said...

He put his coat on...its cold here in Eastern Canada! But the nekkid drunk guy would have been real freaky!

Susan said...

When Wade and I were in graduate school, he came home one day and said, 'Have you ever thought about how many of your students might be carrying a gun when they come to class?' He meant it as an interesting rhetorical question, but the very next morning, in a large and troublesome lecture class, I was returning papers. I have never been so terrified about handing out all those Cs in my whole life.

So glad this worked out well. And that Ryan wasn't naked.

MC Etcher said...

I'm glad he didn't cause a scene, that was an uncomfortable situation and you handled it very well!

I think walking around and touching base with each student is a great idea!

I'm a shy person, so it as a student it would be unnerving at first but seems a very worthwhile practice!

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Good call, keeping the interaction low key. When I worked with folks who had psychiatric difficulties, that was one of the first principles. If you stay calm, they're likely to stay calm; if you lose your cool, they will, too.

And another good call, going to your desk to think it through instead of acting precipitously.

You must have a degree of personal authority about you, since he decided to leave when you called him up to your desk, instead of challenging you further.

So if you got a good result, it was because you handled it well. I think this little crisis should make it easier for your students to approach you, not harder.

Carslemane Foraix said...

G'day Heather.

I had this idea to tag people, but I dunno how, so I asked Robbo, coz he's got lots of trams & trains, and he says you do this:

You've been tagged here sport.

Geez its hot here, and the sun's not up yet!

Good on yer, and hope to read your tag.

hotboy said...

Gun. Pepper spray. CS gas cannisters. Knuckle dusters. Even teeth. Fung sake! Big drunk guys. 180 lbs. Six Two. A real big thing. I'd like to be like that. Do what you like. Scary! Shoot to kill. Hotboy

Robin said...

Wow--why the hell would anybody come to class drunk? Hmmn...come to think of it, there's a pub on my campus...

robmcj said...

Good call. Gently state what you think he should do, back off to let him think about it. It's his move.

I prefer not to think about the gun, and whether I would stop a bullet to save the class, or run out and abandon my students.