Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dealing with nastiness

    Recently, a student posted a snotty comment which put down most other students (I won’t share the specifics here for privacy’s sake).  Another student almost immediately responded, calling the first student on the insult.  The first student backed down.
Nasty nastyphoto © 2006 Toms Bauģis | more info (via: Wylio)

    As I read the conversation, I was thinking, “What should I do about this?”  I composed responses to the offending student.  I tried again and again.  Inevitably my responses were sarcastic and would not improve the online climate.

    This is one of those times when I’m really glad to have a hybrid class.  With middle school students, talking F2F is so helpful – you get the message to the student immediately, with no waiting for the student to read the posting (and email isn’t an option since middle school students virtually never check their email).  And F2F you can see each others’ expressions and body language. It’s just as important for them to see my expressions as for me to see theirs.

     First, I removed the offending post, which removed that whole small conversation. The first student I saw after that was the student who complained about the initial post; I thanked this student for the appropriate response, and said I had removed the conversation; this student was relieved the offensive comment was gone, and relieved to know that I thought this student’s response to it was appropriate.  I then found the offending student.  I told the student that the post had been removed, and why – and then reminded the student with a grin that it’s not good to put others down while misspelling one of the important words in the put down. Instead of being a tense moment, we both cracked up.  The student got my message though. 

     And we’re back on an even keel until the next time.


  1. I think its a good class room with shorts

  2. These are always difficult situations. You run through a wide range of emotions. I would caution removing any post. Of course, you may have the authority do so in your environment. I have removed posts in the past and the school frowned upon that (which I thought was odd). They noted that unless it was a post was offensive, I should not remove it without appoval. But that is just a word of advice from my mistakes.

    There are times, that a student does need to be reminded that they need to act in a professional manner. We do need to be careful on what we say and how we say it. I have found that contacting the student privately (either by email or phone) can help.

    No matter how we deal with it, these are ugly situationations and we need to make sure that we do not act in haste and post something we regret.

    Thanks for the posting:)

  3. Brian - Thanks for your helpful comment. Your experience was interesting, and I agree, odd.

    In the blended environment I teach in, when a student posts something nasty, the resulting conflict spills over into the halls, the lunchroom, and other classrooms.

    I think I would handle the situation a bit differently with adults, but would still remove an offensive post because developing and maintaining the community is important to me. My students need to feel - f2f or online - that they are in a safe environment where they won't be attacked. And I also don't think 13 year olds get to have unrestricted freedom of speech ;)