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CCCC 2006 in Review

E5 The Students We Love to Hate: How to Keep Problem Students from Destroying the Classroom Community

The title of this session grabbed my attention. I was not alone; there was a crowd at the front and back of the room and every seat was taken. There were also two additional waves of participants who came in to sit on any of the remaining rug space in the front of the room.

The four presenters provided a brief five-minute synopsis and profile of the various students "we love to hate."

Kathleen McEvoy, "'Are you my momma?':Dealing with the Ducklings"

A duckling:

The underlying problem may be self-esteem or an absolute lack of social awareness or underlying mental problems that cause them to cling to the teacher as lifeline.

Pam Whitfield, "The Drama Queen (or King)"

The Drama Queen or King:

This often culminates in one Big Bet. Drama kings and queens live for crisis and value high risk-taking and believe they're the exception to the rule. Some drama queens (or kings) do play all their cards at once, although this is the exception.

Shannon Stewart, "Princess Perfect and Her Know-It-All Court"

Perfects:

Amy S. Gerald, "Teacher Authority and the Male Resistor"

The male resistor tends to take any one of five shapes:

Hepzibah Roskelly chaired this session mentioning that these were four of her former Ph.D. students. The session was designed so that attendees were able to talk in smaller groups. The room bubbled with an exchange of stories and those present earnestly worked to brainstorm possible solutions or tactics for working with difficult students who threaten the educational community of the classroom. I watched these instructors enact the pedagogy Roskelly details in her book Breaking [into] the Circle.

This session is reminiscent of the wonderful, humorous collection of essays, What to Expect When You're Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. As Tom Newkirk says in the Foreword, we need more of these failure stories. One of the presenters said it best when she cited these five reasons for looking directly at what is most difficult: "Failure promotes reflection; stimulates change; encourages flexibility; improves your tolerance for frustration; cultivates humility; and provides useful information."

In the remaining moments of the session, each presenter seamlessly contributed a "wrap-up" synthesis of both individual and group-generated solutions. What became clear was that "hate" was a bit of misnomer—only the dedicated and compassionate instructors would work so hard to find ways to mend these broken relationships and classroom settings, illustrating the fact that the learning always extends far beyond our self-selected subject matter, whether we want it to or not.

— Stephanie Paterson

Works Cited

Bramblett, Anne, and Knoblauch, Alison. (2002). What to Expect When You're Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. New Hampshire: Boynton/Cook, Heinemann.

Roskelly, Hephzibah. (2003). Breaking (into) the Circle: Group Work for Change in the English Classroom. New Hampshire: Boynton/Cook, Heinemann.

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.