99% of teachers in the United Kingdom have been verbally assaulted in the past year, points out Anthea Lipsett in “Teachers claim frequent physical attacks,” (06/28/07). Lipsett also says, 74% of those teachers have claimed to have been verbally abused once every two to three weeks.
Similar statistics are found in the United States and throughout other countries. The frequency of students verbally abusing teachers is rising and these epithets and profound statements can be heard in classrooms, within hallways, and all throughout school campuses.
What should you do if you’ve been verbally assaulted by a student?
1. Remain Calm:
The abusive student has already disrupted the classroom environment. The best way to handle this situation is to remain calm. Show the student you are in control, and continue teaching.
You’re not capitulating to this student or showing the class you’re acquiescing to this student by remaining calm and waiting until after class. But an outburst from you will show that you’re not in control of your emotions, which is not appropriate.
So remain calm and handle the situation after class.
2. Talk to the Student After Class:
After class is the best time to talk to the student. A minute before the dismissal bell rings, calmly ask the student to stay to talk with you.
During this brief conference express your concerns about the abusive behavior, review your classroom rules and expectations (the ones you previously reviewed with the entire class and during Open House with all parents), and let the student know there will be consequences.
3. Report the Student to the School Counselor:
The majority of students who are verbally abusive have other outside issues and are acting out.
Verbal abuse usually stems from early childhood modeling which has become part of this student’s repertoire. This abuse is a coping mechanism which school counselors can help resolve or refer to appropriate sources.
School counselors have extensive learning and practice with these types of behaviors and can assist in ameliorating the situation and assisting the student.
4. Call Home:
Work to rebuild a positive relationship with your student. Let the parent or guardian know what happened within the classroom. Explain your expectations and offer to be of assistance to the parent and to the student.
Many times parents aren’t aware of what is transpiring outside the home. A friendly phone call home will allow you to express your concerns and articulate your desires to help their student, and will usually end in positive outcomes.
5. Report to Administration:
If the verbal abuse warrants a referral to the discipline office or to the administrator in charge of discipline then immediately complete the referral.
Referrals should be a last resort for most behavioral issues. You should make every effort to ensure you’ve exhausted all necessary steps to alleviate problem behavior by following rules and consequences, clearly identifying your behavioral expectations and reviewing these with students and parents, and following behavioral interventions.
However, if all other means have been exhausted or the verbal abuse was extensive to warrant a referral, immediately report the incident to administration.
A student study team may need to meet to review this student’s behavior and work to assist in putting together a plan to ensure positive academic success. With efforts from school personnel, constructive results can come of this situation.
Be diligent in your efforts and always remain calm. Be assured, most of the time students who are abusive are usually not acting out at you, the teacher; but they are acting out because of many uncontrollable circumstances within their life.