Dealing with the Rudent – the Rude Student

One of the most frustrating parts of any educator’s job is dealing with people who have decided that they can be rude to you. No, scratch that, that’s the most frustrating part of any job! With students, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether you’re dealing with social dysfunction, frustration, lack of respect, feigned lack of respect or any of the other forms of mis-directed aggression that masquerade as rudeness.

In some cases, students genuinely don’t realise how they sound – a simple nudge in the right direction can help them. However, the tone that you take in response is always going to be important here. The escalation of rudeness is easy to fuel and hard to stop. That’s one of the reasons that we have what amounts to be a ‘generous tone and interpretation’ policy on our electronic forums. We expect our students to be polite to each other, to think about what they’re writing and to try and interpret another person’s comments in a positive light.

Recently I had a student start posting and it was hard to tell if he was forming sentences clumsily or actually being rude. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for a couple of posts and then, when he started going further, I stepped in and suggested that he looked at his tone as he was heading towards the problem area. What’s interesting is that his messages were directed at me and I would have stepped in sooner if it had been anyone else.

I don’t have much to add to the vast body of educational psychology and people management that covers all of this, except to give my handling mechanisms for public student communication spaces as a simple list.

  1. Be explicit about your politeness policy – don’t depend on implicit rules. I announce these at the start.
  2. Be as consistent as you can about this – respect should be omnidirectional. I try to be welcoming, friendly and polite. Any serious disciplinary admonishment is NEVER in the public eye.
  3. If a message, post or comment makes you even vaguely angry – step away and don’t respond until you’re calm (if you can).
  4. Re-read all messages before sending them to check your tone and, if in doubt, ask someone else to look at it. If you can, add something positive to the message to redirect the discussion back to the main point. Remember to encourage positive discussion!
  5. Always send messages and communicate at the level of politeness and respect that you want back.
  6. Never read the forums or e-mail when you’re already in a bad mood – it’s a dark lens.
  7. Be direct. Give your message and move on. Most students aren’t that bad and will be fine after the occasional flare-up. Let it go.
  8. If someone keeps being rude, move it up the chain and seek disciplinary intervention, even if it’s a personal chat from the Head of School. We’re serious about politeness, so stick to your guns.
  9. If you ever make a serious gaffe on any of these, suck it up, apologise and move on. Learn from it.
  10. Always apply the same rules of protection to yourself – you are not a punching bag.

One Comment on “Dealing with the Rudent – the Rude Student”

  1. Darlena says:

    Great post! I deal with the “Rudent” occasionally with my sixth-graders. They’re just becoming teenagers, and like the idea of pushing our buttons. šŸ™‚ It’s a little harder to apply your communication rules when the rudeness is face-to-face, but I think 1, 2, 7, and 10 are very applicable! Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s