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If one of your students....

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How would you handle this teaching situation?  I put this in the business forum because teaching classes is a large part of my pottery income.

I hold small group classes in my home studio.  several of my students have been with me for a few years.  One of my regulars brought in a buddy of hers who has not had any hands on pottery experience.   She was looking at her results from a  handbuilding class with me.  She was not happy with 100% of the pieces she finished the last workshop, although a couple of them were quite nice, and now after her 2nd workshop in which one of her pieces was spectacularly sucessfull, but one was not what she 'expected it to look like glazed', she expressed how dissatisfied she was with the results.  I thought the pieces was a good results for a person who has only glazed 5 pieces ever.  One of my experienced students offered that the test tiles don't always show exactly what the dipped piece will look like and that she often didn't get exactly what she was expecting, since she is always doing something different and uning different glazes each time.   I offered that there were many variables and she was just getting started.  She came back with, "Or, you are lying to us about what the glazes will look like".  someone in the group said "What???? !!!" and she repeated the same , that I might be lying.  The room was silent for a moment, I said nothing while I gathered my thoughts, then said, " When you have some experience, you might be able to  understand this better"  and went on with the class.   I have heard that this woman has a reputation for being verbally aggressive in this way.

Now , days later, I sort of wishing I had ripped her a new one.  I give everything I have to my students and feel I have not done a good job as their instructor if their works don't turn out well enough.  We do group trips to pottery shows and sales, go to workshops , and several of my students have gone forward and built their own studios, with support from me going forward.  

What do you think?   I insist my students play well together and everyone on the studio to feel welcome and safe to stumble through their own learning curve.   How would you play this?

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I think your response was perfect. You put her in her place without being rude and what you said is absolutely true. I would see how she is going forward and if you want to kick her out, kick her out. Personally, I have no use for people like that and your other students would probably appreciate her absence.

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I agree ... you handled it with class and your other students know what is happening.

I would ask her to stay after the last class of this session and privately ask her if she wants to be in the next round of classes or not. Explain that this is not an instant gratification place and it takes years to learn. Tell her you will not be abused or called a liar again and if she cannot go with this, please do not return. Then it is up to you to decide if the next class is “full” or not when she does apply.

 

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It might be worth looking at the possibility that this student has difficulties which manifest themselves as aggression in defensive situations. I've certainly known some on the Aspergers/Autistic spectrum exhibit behaviour in exactly that way. The friend who brought her along might have some idea about that - history, background, etc.?

(Not an answer in terms of what to do, more one of many possibilities as to why someone might be inappropriately challenging. If you can find out the root, you can often adopt more successful strategies. Should you actually want to, of course - you are under no obligation to accept disruption to your class, or your life!)

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You did the best thing. . . limited response(time to move on with the others), measured response(you did  not berate her), and teacher responsible in that you gave a response but did not waste time on by giving her more of an excuse to rant. In the long run, sure everyone could have problems, but in this present atmosphere there are those who will challenge authority just to be challenging it.

In all of my years of teaching, I  heard this type of complaint. However, I stressed in every demonstration of glazing that there were always unexpected results.  I kept a load of test tiles that would show the same glaze and what could happen. Pinks that would be white, blues that may have turned gray, and all sorts of differences  in glaze thickness, kiln position, and even fast and fired down cooling.

You were professional in your response, hope you don't have to deal with her too ofthen.

best,

Pres

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57 minutes ago, Sputty said:

It might be worth looking at the possibility that this student has difficulties which manifest themselves as aggression in defensive situations. I've certainly known some on the Aspergers/Autistic spectrum exhibit behaviour in exactly that way. The friend who brought her along might have some idea about that - history, background, etc.?

(Not an answer in terms of what to do, more one of many possibilities as to why someone might be inappropriately challenging. If you can find out the root, you can often adopt more successful strategies. Should you actually want to, of course - you are under no obligation to accept disruption to your class, or your life!)

tbh this would be my first guess;   my wife has worked supporting students across the spectrum and the behaviour described does sound familiar.  

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I think your response was spot on, for all the reasons Pres and Chris already stated. And I think that even if she is on the Autism/Asperger's spectrum somewhere, the strategies involved in dealing with that all involve setting healthy, compassionate and firm boundaries, not accepting inappropriate outbursts, and not feeding them when they do happen. Exactly like what you already did. 

If you both wish to continue the teaching relationship, (and feel free not to if its not a level of mentorship you're willing to take on after that!) I'd take her aside outside the class so that she isn't taking other student's time, and you're not inadvertently embarrassing her in front of other people.  Explain to her that while your classes are geared to set students up to produce a succesful piece, ceramics still has a certain amount of process that's involved.  It takes some time to learn, just like playing a musical instrument. She wouldn't expect to play "Stairway to Heaven" the fifth time she picked up a guitar.  Glazing is complicated, and she should cut herself some slack, and allow herself some space to learn and do it wrong.  But if she has comments or questions, she needs to word them respectfully.  Calling you a liar in your own home studio in front of a class full of other people isn't okay, and if she persists, she won't be welcomed back. You need to do this for your students, so that their class time is being respected, as well as for yourself!

 

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+1 to all above comments.

From a "future participant" point, I always try to set expectations with pots and glazing, telling new class members that if they want "Wedgwood perfection" they are better to go and buy what they want.  If they want to play, create and experiment, they are in the right place.  Set expectations without stifling aspirations.

 

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Agree with all the others who said you handled this professionally.

People have all sorts of things happening in their lives that cause frustration and anxiety. Whenever you get a disproportionate response to a situation usually they’re displacing blame in order to meet their ego needs, or it could be one of a range of mental health issues that can also result in similar behaviours in addition to ASD.

Given your comment about this person having a history, your chances of changing their behaviour are likely minimal. Bottom line is you can’t win an emotional / irrational based discussion using logic. You contained the situation which was likely all anyone could have done.

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As others have stated, you responded appropriately.

In one of my recertification courses, the focus was classroom management.  One of the things they talked about, was  not to berate, or try to embarrass a student, in front of the class.  All that does, is give them an audience, and likely make you look like the "bad guy".   You did the right thing, by  addressing the problem, and giving a different take on why the glazes didn't turn out right.

Another thing the course talked about was, when you have a student who is complaining and trying to rile everyone up,  give them a chance to share their views, but at another time.  And I've used that technique before, when a student was giving me attitude about something.  I said, "If you would like to continue to discuss this, we can do it after class/ school."  Once again, it takes away their audience, paints you in a positive light, and puts the work on them, for continuing the discussion.  If it really something important to them, they will find the time.  If not, they will probably just drop it.

 

And lying about the glazes?  I have never been accused of that one!  I've had glazes turn out poorly, usually a matter of mixing the bottles up, or poor application.  I always offer to refire, if they would like.  

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A related, but different, perspective.

I remember glazing the very first pot I made.  I came up with a colour scheme and glazed it with my tutor.

What I had in my head wasn't what she ended up giving me.  The glaze had turned it into some kind of mouldy aubergine.  I was very dissapointed. It wasn't what I expected and certainly not what I wanted.

My tutor told me that these things happen - and for it to happen to my first pot was a good lesson about ceramics and unpredictability.  She was right.  Right lesson at the right time.

I still don't like the pot.

 

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Thank you all for your comments, this has gotten under my skin a bit, perhaps her goal???  I try very hard to help every student have a good experience, and feel like they have put themselves in my hands for the duration of the workshop.  I don't have anything scheduled for a while, I will wait and see how my own feelings process this before I decide what, if anything, I am going to do.  I don't think I will change her, but I might change how she feels she can behave in my space.

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It’s actually weirdly funny to think about you taking the time to fire glaze samples that look nothing like the results.

You probably also uncenter the  clay. Do you go around at night with your s-crack device and ruin the plates? Maybe you are the one who shrinks bowls too!

Fess up ... do you warp pots in your spare time?

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you reacted perfectly to a bad situation. I agree with discussing her future plans for another class and set the rules. You will not be called a liar again and not tolerate abusive behavior.

Teaching on any level always has its trials and tribulations. You did the right thing.

Marcia

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ya know I of course agree with everyone that her behavior was awful and the way you handled both skilled and smooth.

I second Pres suggestion of adding way off samples to your other samples. Folks that just walk in cold don't realize that it's not like painting where the colors match up to samples. In a sequential class a lecture on glazes would cover this but in an ongoing class where there is no 'glaze class'  they have no idea that when they pick out a nice blue from your samples that it might turn into a different shade or even a different color. Maybe even have a couple of printouts talking about the subject from the net to hand them so they can take it home. In this way the very likely possibility of differences between the samples and the finished piece is something they expect from the beginning as part of the process and the shock  and disbelief of a pretty blue coming out brownish is not there and her tacky reaction would likely not have happened. 

The person, if not suffering from a mental issue, is likely just somewhat inept at expressing anger and projects. We know she has at least one friend so maybe there's hope. You sound just classy and level headed enough to handle her. Wonder how she's going to handle all the other fun surprises pottery has to offer. 

Edited by Stephen

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You sound like an amazing teacher. Keep doing exactly what you're doing.

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USAahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

 

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This issue  can be compared to a Human Resource  item.  I would not necessarily address it further at this time, that is, you handled it, you moved on, and hopefully so did the other person.  So you note it and proceed.  I would not meet her alone on this event.  But, next event is an escalation and at that time you would be justified in escalating your response as well.  " I would be happy to meet with you later when the other students are not being inconvenienced by your problem.  "  and then, you could and should explain that your class, your authority, and your dignity will not suffer a bully or rude behavior.  The sanction is your perogative.

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On 2/9/2018 at 10:43 AM, clay lover said:

Now , days later, I sort of wishing I had ripped her a new one.  I give everything I have to my students and feel I have not done a good job as their instructor if their works don't turn out well enough.  We do group trips to pottery shows and sales, go to workshops , and several of my students have gone forward and built their own studios, with support from me going forward.  

You handled this well by moving on, this allowed the learning and creativity to continue. If you took the bait to engage with her pettiness it would have taken away from the other students who were there to learn and create. 

My advice is refuse to let her in the group again. She has nothing to contribute to your class and if she makes other accusations or complaints, it takes your time away from students that appreciate the efforts you are making to teach them.  I am sure you can find a better student to sit in her seat.

If she complains or asks why, say "you called me a liar, you didn't apologize, I refuse to teach someone who treats others the way you do."

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She sounds like a muddle of ignorance and personal problems. It was good at least one of your other students supported you verbally, I hope the rest did as well in some way. Maybe that was enough, but if she shows a hint of that BS again I'd take her aside privately and tell her to knock it off. Unless she's a nut, which it kinda sounds like she is, when she bothers to google anything educational about how touchy glazes are, she'll be embarrassed about treating you this way. Some folks just refuse to learn anything though, so I'd definitely be done with her after this class and not accept her back, not that she will ever try and come back. Good story for your life experience. If I were you I'd try and take the graceful way out and neither engage her again nor show her any particular grudge, that will earn you high marks with your current students. 

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I am trying to imagine how a frustrated or ASD-affected student would feel being told that she might understand better with more experience. Probably more frustrated.

I would probably say I would dig up something- maybe a good link online- between this class period and the next that the whole class can look at to understand better all the ways glazes can turn out, something with plenty of pictures- that it's kind of tricky and full of surprises.

If someone were repeatedly belligerent toward me, I would suggest privately to her or to her guardian that she might be happier in another class.

 

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I try to advise my students that the answer to nearly every pottery related question is 'It all depends': How will this glaze look...it all depends...will this blow up in the kiln...it all depends...will this warp/crack/fall off....it all depends and then go on to explain what it depends on. I also talk about a 'satisfaction parameter' to not expect only one specific outcome but to have fluid parameters of satisfaction and for the beginning student that parameter starts at 'it survived' to 'hey it looks pretty good' This prep seems to work for most students but there is alway that one student that does not have a go with the flow kinda outlook. These students i always remind there is no failure only learning opportunties and ask them what they can learn from what they see as a failure.

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PSC, I have those talks also, every class,  and have a chart on the studio wall with a list of all the variables that can change how a final piece looks. 

Problem person is best buddies with another of my favorite students, which makes leaving her out a bit complicated.  This is a small town and everyone knows everyone.  One of the group is an old work related friend, who is , I now know, showing strong signs of dementia. Since I did not know her previously to this particular class meeting, I didn't see her as having changed, only being sweetly quiet and hesitant, which I am very supportive of in my instruction.   Said problem person was agressivley impatient with her and her other friends say it is because problem person is so upset to see the changes in the woman who is now struggling to figure out where she is and what's going on.

cOn a weird note, I have since learned what this woman does for a living.....she's a  mental health therapist!!

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