Difficult Student Meetings• Jack Hobson, Loyola Marymount University• Denise Kinsella, Santa Monica College• Ryan Larsen, University of Nevada, Las Vegas 1. Learning Outcomes a. Identify difficult students b. Prepare yourself c. Set expectations d. Meet and de-escalate difficult interactions. e. Case studies. 2. Difficult Behaviors k. Arrogant a. Hostile l. Ramblers b. Defensive m. Silent c. Mean n. Inappropriate d. Aggressive o. Violent e. Puts down others p. Blamer f. Shouts q. Can’t be wrong g. Bullies r. Mistrustful h. Spoiled s. Martyr i. Cynical t. Cognitive disability j. Won’t listen 3. Preparing Yourself a. The Problem i. We all encounter difficult behavior. They can make us fearful, anxious, aggressive, or uncomfortable and eventually hardened. ii. Eleanor Roosevelt said that “No one can make us feel inferior without our consent.” Let’s work on practicing that with all of the above b. Self Care i. It’s easier to stay calm in stressful situations when you already are calm generally. ii. Achieve this by practicing self care: 1. Exercise regularly 2. Daily walking breaks on campus / hike 3. Practice yoga, Pilates, aerobics, etc 4. Learn to meditate 5. Journal 6. Talk about it 7. Say nice things to yourself / affirmations 8. Practice healthy boundaries c. Attitude i. Imagine the possibility of liking to work with difficult students.
ii. How can seeing these individuals in a different way help you? “Difficult” is in the eye of the beholder. iii. 10 good things. iv. Fighting and resisting gives them power. v. Their difficult behavior really isn’t about you. vi. What they think of you is none of your business. vii. You might be able to help them help themselves (How can I help this student? What is my goal?). viii. You can be nice and firm at once. ix. Affirmations. d. Keep in Mind i. Give them ownership of the problem. ii. It’s not your place to fix them. iii. Compliment: it’s harder for them to be mean to you when you’ve validated them. iv. Apologize when appropriate. v. Be nimble and creative. vi. Stay on your student’s side, fiercely. vii. Be prepared to name their behavior. viii. Stay grounded and pay attention.4. Setting Expectations a. With Students i. Communicate and post information… 1. About a process. 2. About a program. 3. About discipline. ii. These are not meant to be used as “gotcha” points, but are useful in empowering students iii. An example is having to define “ an application” or “competitive” iv. Communicate in writing in both directions v. Don’t minimize issues on the front end… vi. If a process of application is going to be difficult or challenging. vii. If you don’t think something is going to “go through” viii. If there are pending concerns others have raised about a student or set of circumstances. ix. …This only sets up distrust x. Empower students with decisions… 1. If a student is feeling trapped in a larger set of circumstances, be prepared to give them options. 2. An example would be student discipline and allowing a student to a. self-admit to an offence to judicial affairs
b. draft a personal statement c. identify what some possible repercussions might be b. With Parents i. Empowering parents to engage in appropriate areas. 1. Having a parents section of the website ii. When dealing with an over-engaged parent 1. Signaling: your student, never your child. 2. Consistency: try not to be bullied into bending policy, FERPA, or best practices. iii. Much of this is reliant on institutional culture c. With Students About Parents i. Talk to students about parental involvement 1. Either generally in a website or other materials 2. Or selectively in extreme circumstances ii. Make sure that students understand how parents might misread common complaints 1. A student having a bad day might get translated into – I must act immediately on behalf of my student! iii. Make sure students know the ways in which an office will or won’t engage with parents.5. The Meeting/De-escalation a. Take Precautions i. Notify others of your impending meeting ii. Have an office “safe word” iii. Ask students to leave backpacks, bags outside your office iv. Meet with your door open v. Arrange for someone from disabled services, psych services, campus security, or other support offices to meet with you or be on-call during your meeting. b. Set the Stage for a Positive Outcome i. Repeat your affirmation ii. Become calm and peaceful before the student enters iii. Review the student file and notes before the student enters. Be prepared to be creative. Have various solutions to offer. iv. If you can’t prepare in advance, 1. slow things down, calm the room 2. Give yourself permission to reschedule c. Listen Actively i. Allow student to decompress by telling his story. Too time consuming? Build in a process where the student writes the issue down before you meet with him. ii. Set a time limit for meeting to give you and the student incentive to focus. iii. Validate the difficulties the student is having.
iv. Ask questions both to validate the student and to get the information you need to develop a solution. v. Make sure you understand what the student wants from you (Reflect back what they’ve said) vi. Continually focus on your affirmation. What are you doing to help this student? vii. Use humor viii. Students should own both a process as well as their behavior. Don’t be afraid to name their behavior. ix. If you sense an escalating behavioral setting 1. Always mirror the kind of behavior you want them to present 2. Make sure they understand the behavioral expectations 3. Make sure they understand the ramifications of their behavior 4. Never hesitate to end a meeting or conversationd. Focus on the Issue i. Continually bring the conversation back to the problem and solutions. Write down the topic of the meeting to help both of you focus. ii. Be nimble and creative 1. What alternatives can you offer? 2. Where can you give the student what she wants so that you can move forward? (What if everything is my fault? Your situation is still the same. These are your options now…) iii. Remind student of program policies that guide your discussion and his alternatives. iv. Make clear what is in your power to do, and what is not in your power to do.e. Set Boundaries & Get Support i. Insist on respectful behavior. ii. Reschedule meeting if student can’t calm down. iii. Get a witness if meeting deteriorates iv. Document what you’ve told the student, what the student has said to you, recommendations you’ve made. v. Report difficult interactions and cases to your supervisor and others who may meet with the student vi. Prepare: Have a witness or notetaker present for next meeting. Have options, solutions ready for next meeting. If necessary, confine student to e-mail-only interactions so that he is not yelling at you, and so his interactions are documented.f. When There is No Resolution i. Planters: Find someone else to help/call security ii. Ramblers/Silent students: Offer alternatives. Express consequences of their behavior, then follow through, but remain on the side of the student. If you’re referring them to another office, accompany them to the office that could help them. iii. Inappropriate behavior: Explain and model appropriate behavior. End meeting and reschedule or require e-mail interaction
iv. Follow up with student g. After the Meeting i. Journal or reflect on lessons learned ii. What will you do again? What will you do differently? iii. Are there programmatic changes that need to be made? iv. Is the case resolved, or do you need to follow up?6. Case Studies a. Student with Cognitive Disabilities b. Entitled Student c. Difficult student-parent cycle i. How did we solve the problem? ii. What have we learned? What are we doing differently?