Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Need Some Teaching Advice

So I know a couple of my readers are teachers and I am in need of some teaching advice.  Although even if you're not a teacher, please don't hesitate to comment!  I'm always open to suggestions.  So here's what's been going on:

I'm a TA for a section of general chemistry lab.  I enjoy doing this generally.  The extra cash is nice and most of the students are pretty fun.  I feel that lab can be a little more laid back than lecture and that as long as they're serious when they need to be, I'm cool with it.  I did this last year as well and there were really no issues.  This semester I have a "problem child," if you will, emerging.

The ironic part is that this student is a chemistry major and has the potential to do really well.  He mentioned during the first week of class that he hates doing things just to make a point (i.e. our entire lab curriculum, of which I have no control).  I get his point and I feel bad that I can't really do anything to help him out in this respect.  When I got his first lab report is really wasn't adequate.  They get to do a re-write, so I gave him some comments and the grade he earned (which was not good).

After I handed back the reports we went over common errors, things that lots of people missed.  This student began correcting my grammar as I spoke.  Now don't get me wrong, I make mistakes and I'm all for being corrected to make sure everyone in the class is getting the right information.  But this kid was correcting my grammar as I am speaking!  I don't speak perfectly 100% of the time, but I'm pretty sure everyone can understand me.  I tried to just let this go.

At the end of the class the students have to sign out with me and when he came to sign out I noticed that he didn't complete his analogy worksheet.  I asked if he did it and he told me that he did it in his head.  This is one of the few ways I know that the students are participating because sometimes I have to stay in the lab while some of the students are working on the analogy activity.  He got upset when I told him that not completing assignments will result in a poor participation grade.  I get the sense that he feels like taking this class is beneath him.

Anyway, I am meeting with him tomorrow to go over his lab report (something he signed up for) and I am trying to prepare what I want to say to him.  I feel like his negative attitude is bringing some of the other students down, which is not okay.  I want to reach out, not make it worse.  I feel like this is a fine line I'm walking.  Any advice or tips?


  1. I teach ENG 101 and I've had plenty of problem students, so let me give some advice:

    1. It's not you. Typically these students are doing poorly in other classes and their bad attitudes are getting them nowhere. He is trying to manipulate you-- don't let him!

    2. I would just tell him that his negative attitude is not welcome in the classroom and that it is resulting in him receiving a lower participating grade. Remind him that he needs to complete his work in lab and if he has a problem with the class that he can always take it at another time.

    Leave it at that. Don't get into an argument with the student. CALMLY explain your position, let him state his position, but don't back down.

    Good luck! You'll be fine.

  2. Wish I could help out, but I'm not a teacher...good luck though

  3. Just getting caught did this go?

    There are a number of ways to approach the situation. I try to be as non-confrontational as possible and make sure that the student knows that they are free to make their own choices, but that they need to be accountable for the consequences of those choices. Basically, I'll help them, but they are free to fail. Most of the time we end up having some conversation about how school is a game and in order to win you have to play by the rules.

    I would have had NO patience for the correcting my grammar while I was speaking, though! I would have invited him to sit in the hallway if he was having issues with the instructions that I was giving. ASS!

    Let me know how it went!