Hey Angry Student – I Won This One.

Every semester, I get an angry student.  The angry student is easy to spot. Arms twisted across their chest, slunk back in the chair with a look that says, “Go ahead, just try and teach me.” 


Within minutes of my opening lecture, I’ll get challenged on something simple. Most recently, it was the spelling of my first name. That’s right. The name I’ve been sporting for almost 50 years came under scrutiny. How do you respond to that? Here goes: Talk to mother about my name and p.s., she’s way angrier than you.


My best friend in high school was an angry student. It got to the point that even I was afraid to sit next to her. But at the end of the day, she did well in school and now that I’m a teacher I know why she excelled.


Being angry means you’re awake. Being angry means you’re listening. Being angry means you’re brain is working and attempting to question and challenge.  Oh NO! These are the same elements required for learning.


Hey Angry Student – Is it possible your distaste for the classroom has caused the exact thing you were attempting to avoid?  Is it possible I actually like your negative attitude because it’s something I can work with in class? Is it possible I look forward to your comments because it helps me see another point of view?


Is it possible we both won? I taught. You challenged. We learned. Let’s just call it even. 

  • Grant Dux

    As a student, I have also noticed other students exhibit similar behaviors, but I would not necessarily call them angry. Now, I say this because I have often pondered to myself as to what might be the possible reasons or underlying causes that would promote such behavior that could quite possibly be deemed “angry” by your professor. In an attempt to understand these types of students, I examined on my own experiences to identify a few possible scenarios that would explicate such behaviors.

    It’s not quite once-bitten-twice-shy anymore, it’s more like, once-bitten-twice-cautious. So with the arms twisted across the chest, slunk back in the chair the student could be wondering, “Does this teacher know her stuff?” Too often, we as students encounter professors who we initially expect to gain a wealth of knowledge from in a particular subject matter and they end up rambling on for an hour and fifteen minutes about un-relatable examples then give a dozen problems, from a book that is written in unfamiliar jargon, as homework.

    Delving deeper, it might not even be the professor or the inexplicably expensive course material but what they represent that causes this apparent distaste for the classroom. The student might be at the point of realization that school is a business and education is a commodity which can’t be returned after years of sacrificing weekends with friends due to homework and impending assignments, then graduating thinking he has done it only to find out that it is not quite so easy to become gainfully employed in the field that he now knows so much about.

    Despite all this, that student presses on with that working brain eager to learn, eager to question and challenge everything – even the professor’s name.

    Hey Professor – What might such student be attempting to avoid? Is It possible that negative attitude towards disassociated subject matter will steer in the direction of more applicable information? Am I an “angry student”?

    Well, if you teach and I learn then we both win. Now we can call it even.