The Teacher’s Pet Wannabe

by admin on April 21, 2014

If this sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.

I missed studying so I decided to take French classes after a few years of inactivity. I was very happy to discover I was actually the youngest in the class (being 30) because I’m not a fan of studying with teenagers (I realize most are fine, but in my experience it only takes a couple who are forced to be there by their parents to ruin things for everybody else).

Since it’s an advanced class, and we’re (kind of) done with grammar, it’s mostly a conversation class. Teacher is great. My problem is with this otherwise nice lady who, despite pushing 50, doesn’t seem to have grown out of her teacher’s pet days. She monopolizes every class. If there’s a quiz, she literally sits on the edge of her seat so she’ll be the first to answer every single question. She answers questions that are specifically directed at others. Every now and then she’ll even answer questions made by one of the students meant for the teacher. You’d think after a few seconds of speaking over the teacher she’d realize how inappropriate her behavior is, but no such luck. She’ll start rambling about personal experiences at the most inappropriate times – while we’re watching a video for instance. If she decides she has something to say (which is pretty much always) she sees nothing wrong with interrupting others before they are done speaking, even if it means speaking louder and louder until the other person gives up. Her stories aren’t even relevant to whatever is being discussed, she just wants to show off whatever fancy word or construction she learned last. We were supposed to read a short story and discuss it the following week but since she was familiar with it she thought it would be a good idea to spoil the ending for everyone else. The funniest part is she gets visibly annoyed when corrected by the teacher.

It might sound like the teacher doesn’t care, but the truth is he’s done everything short of putting his hand over her mouth. He’s ignored her, joked about her monopolizing the class, told her (politely) not to interrupt others when they are speaking, apologized to others on her behalf for the interruption… I swear he once held up the palm of his hand 4 inches from her face in an attempt to shut her up while he was trying to hear what another student was saying. No, it didn’t work. I kind of feel sorry for the teacher because there’s only so much you can do when dealing with an adult student as opposed to a child. And it might seem like she’s deliberately trying to provoke the teacher, but I’m (95%) sure she honestly just wants to be admired.

I might sound petty, but it’s honestly affecting my enjoyment of these classes and I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Subtlety doesn’t work with this woman and I’m not good at confrontation. Is there anything I can do or say to get her to realize she’s not paying for private lessons? 0407-14

First,  I don’t think she’s a teacher’s pet since that would imply the teacher likes and wants that kind of behavior.   She’s a teacher’s pet wannabe.

This is a tough situation since your teacher appears to be powerless to control an unruly student in his classroom.   You don’t have many options available to you that are not blatantly rude in retaliation.   When confronted with a habitual interrupter, I take one of three paths, i.e. I can ignore it, or I can respond with, “Oh, please do forgive me for talking while you were interrupting,” or recognize that I am in a battle for verbal supremacy and I will win…meaning I talk louder and more insistently than the interrupter in order to finish the point I was making.    The latter assumes some people are verbal bullies who will roll right over another person whom they don’t respect.

Selfish people who believe their words are wise  jewels tumbling from their mouth and expect the world to come to a standstill while they bloviate are not likely to stop running roughshod all over other people’s right to speak.    You could talk to the teacher about making a class rule that unwarranted disruptions will result in an automatic grade devaluation.   Informed that she just earned a zero grade for the day may take the wind from her sails.    When it’s a member of your family, confronting them about the constant interruptions and talking over people before they are finished is often quite helpful….assuming the person being confronted has a speck of contriteness to hear the message.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Cecilia April 21, 2014 at 8:02 am

“Oh, please do forgive me for talking while you were interrupting” – LOVE IT. I may try that line next time our office interrupter tries to take over a conversation!!


Phoebe161 April 21, 2014 at 8:15 am

As much as I would love to give that woman a “0” for the day, I’m afraid to cannot be done, if this is a college course. Instructors/professors are limited somewhat by what they terms their put in their course syllabus. The syllabus must contain verbiage on how grades will be assigned, and if there is no provision for a zero for rudeness, monopolizing conversations, etc, then the instructor cannot half-way through the course decide to suddenly make this an option. However, if the course has a class participation grade component, the instructor could point out to the rude student (privately) that her behavior is seriously jeopardizing her grade component.
I really wish I could give good advice to what to do, short of a cork in her mouth.


manybellsdown April 21, 2014 at 9:30 am

I was going to say something along these lines: even with a good reason to fail a student, they can still make trouble for the teacher.

Several years ago I had a class in Public Speaking. I’m actually very good at public speaking (I needed that specific unit regardless), but a lot of people really struggle with it. We had one student who would perpetually roll in late (an hour into a three-hour class) and leave early (an hour later) – if she bothered to show up at all. She was NEVER prepared for what we were doing that day.

Despite that, she thought it was perfectly acceptable to interrupt people giving speeches or presentations with comments or random off-topic questions. For someone who struggles with public speaking that can be incredibly flustering. The professor would consistently, gently, remind her that she needed to hold her questions until the speaker was done, but it never seemed to sink in.

Finally toward the end of the course I’d had enough of everyone desperately trying to ignore her. I turned to her after she’d interrupted another student again and told her that she REALLY needed to stop interrupting presentations. It was distracting and rude and she’d been asked to stop multiple times.

She offered to fight me. In class. She was almost 30, and I was well over that. I remember her saying “Do you want to be arrested today!?”

Anyway, she clearly failed the class, but she lodged a formal complaint against our professor, claiming the class was a “hostile environment” and the teacher failed her “for no reason.” It took the poor professor a year to get the complaint resolved, even with testimony from other students, and I don’t think she teaches there anymore.


Vrinda April 21, 2014 at 11:26 am

You should have told that brat that she would be arrested for starting the fight. In fact, if it was me, I would have said, “If fighting is all you know, I’ll give you a fight, but you’ll be the one regretting it. You’re threatening to get me arrested, while you’re the one instigating a fight. How clever!”


manybellsdown April 22, 2014 at 9:33 am

I think my reply was an incredulous “You’re going to have me arrested for asking you to be quiet?” Her claim was that I didn’t ask her “respectfully” enough. Several large male students offered to walk me to my car after class, in case she was waiting outside (she wasn’t).

I couldn’t really take her seriously. She obviously had some mental health issues. I remember one of the speeches she gave (impromptu, because like I said she was never prepared) was telling “young” girls how to dress for a job interview because “girls today dress like s***s.” Charming.


Miss V April 21, 2014 at 8:29 am

I have a similar expression to the Dame I use when interrupted. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?’ It’s humorous enough that I’ve never had people get offended, and is a nice rememinder that it’s polite to wait for me to finish my sentence.


admin April 21, 2014 at 8:33 am

That’s a good one!

Reply April 21, 2014 at 8:30 am

Well, since she’s acting in a childish way maybe you could do what I would do in my kindergarten classes if there was a student who talked too much. You could talk to the teacher about using a talking stick, in which the only person who can talk is the one holding the stick and they can only have it for a maximum of 30 seconds or a minute? It seems a bit ridiculous for adults, but if this woman is literally taking away your learning experience maybe it would be worth a shot?


Lo April 21, 2014 at 9:03 am

If I were in this class I would totally be willing to entertain a childish method if it got across to this student that she is behaving like a small child. I mean, as long as the rest of the class doesn’t mean this seems like a great way to get the point across to her.

You know I had to deal with people like this when I was in high school long ago. I had a couple of classes with severe narcissistic over-achievers and though you could mark it up to their age and inexperience we had one student in a lit class who used to interrupt the teacher to make psuedo-intellectual remarks about things that had nothing to do with whatever was being read in a ploy for attention. You’d think social pressure would have hammered this one down a bit but no such luck. One day he interrupted the teacher with some story about his personal life and she just stopped him and said, “Yeah, I don’t really care about that,” and went on teaching. Everyone was looking at each other in elated shocked amazement and tittering.

He definitely became more subdued after that.


Wendy B. April 21, 2014 at 8:41 am

If this is college level, it might be worth going to the teacher first during office hours and expressing your disappointment and asking if you can work with him on the problem, even to the point of going to his supervisor. If this is a different situation, it might be worth going to whoever you paid your money to and raise the matter with them, being sure to emphasize that the teacher IS working hard to control her. It might take someone of more authority speaking to her for her to get the point, even if they have to return her money and ask her to take a class elsewhere.

I think the passive-aggressive responses (oh, I’m sorry I talked while you interrupted) are going to go over her head entirely. I think simply saying, “Please do not interrupt me while I am speaking.” is better. She doesn’t get subtle.


Anonymous April 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

The “talking stick” idea isn’t that childish–my women’s group uses that method from time to time; sometimes with a physical object, and sometimes not. In our case, it’s not so much a question of “rudeness,” but rather, getting into discussions where everyone has something to say at the same time, and vehemently agreeing on things (or occasionally disagreeing), and this spins off into stories of how we dealt with X situation in our lives, et cetera……PLUS we sometimes only have a limited amount of time for any one activity/discussion. I met this group through a peace camp (for adults) that I attended last summer, and this was a huge problem there–too much to do, too much to talk about, and not enough time. So, we did the talking stick thing, and we also came up with some sort of shorthand–we had hand gestures for if we agreed with someone, if we thought what they said was particularly brilliant, and if we disagreed, we’d disagree with the statement without putting down the person. Maybe this would work in the French class too.


Dominic April 21, 2014 at 8:47 am

I’m wondering what kind of program these classes are being offered through. It wasn’t clear to me, but I was thinking it sounded like a community college type of setting, or something else less formal than a university or college class.

If this woman is truly causing such a disruption in the class, then other students must be affected by this as much as OP. Perhaps they can go to the administration and have the offending woman booted from the class, if the teacher doesn’t have the authority to do so.


acr April 21, 2014 at 8:57 am

Is this a college course, or some type of personal enrichment course? In my experience, the directors of personal enrichment programs are actually very motivated to respond to student complaints, since their students are adults who are taking a class for enjoyment, vs teenagers or college students who have to be there. I would call the director of the program and discuss the issue. That way, if the problem student tries to complain about the professor, then there is a record of another student supporting the professor. And the director might actually choose to give the student her money back and ask her to leave the class. You may even want to preface your discussion with the director by asking for your money back, or for credit towards a future class, since this one student is ruining your experience.

I don’t think there is any polite way to deal with Problem Student. She wants to talk, and probably the only way to stop her is to escalate the situation to the point where she is actually uncomfortable. My mom was dealing with a similar sort of person, and this person actually said, “People keep asking me to stop talking.”


lkb April 21, 2014 at 9:06 am

Hmmmm……perhaps the teacher could have a session on French etiquette? Have people role play situations that the French deem highly rude? ;D


Kristin April 21, 2014 at 11:50 am

Brilliant idea!


Jewel April 21, 2014 at 9:22 am

The instructor needs to make his superiors aware of the situation. This woman’s behavior is affecting everyone in this class plus, if she’s taking other classes, everyone in those classes as well. That’s a lot of disgruntled students and instructors. Her behavior needs to be addressed by the Dean’s office. If she is unable or unwilling to stop her disruptive behavior, she should be blocked from registering for future classes.


L.L. April 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

I don’t understand why this woman hasn’t been removed from the class. Surely there must be rules regarding disruptive behavior.


Elizabeth April 21, 2014 at 9:33 am

This really shouldn’t be your problem, rather it is in the teacher’s hands. I suggest taking the instructor aside and explaining that this person’s bad behavior is affecting your enjoyment of the class and the level of learning provided. Ask the instructor what will be done about this (it isn’t your problem to fix). Can you receive a refund and take the next offering of the class? Will this person be taken aside and spoken to pointedly? Will this person receive a refund and asked to leave?

Also, do others in the class feel the same way? It might make a point if several students raise the issue of a refund or credit for the next course offering.


inNM April 21, 2014 at 9:40 am

He could initiate a class-wide policy (even after the syllabus has been sent out)where an unruly student will be asked to leave the class. If a group of you feel the same way about her, you can approach the instructor as a group or draft a petition (especially if it’s more than half the class). As a class policy, it will become publicized and applies to every student, so it makes it harder to claim discrimination. Any student should not be allowed to return until they provide a written apology to the class and instructor where they promise not to do it again. If he has to kick them out a second time, it’s a three class ban. A third time and he will drop them from the course.
I also suspect someone who is accustomed to talking over other people can’t just stop doing so, when in mediation at the Dean’s office, for example. Case proven.


ShinyFun April 21, 2014 at 9:47 am

I’d call her out on it every single time and if I were the teacher, she’d be shown the door evertime she disrupted the class (which would be every day).

I can’t stand people who interupt or talk over others.


Natalie April 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I agree. I would turn to her the next time she interrupted and say, “I can NOT hear what the teacher is saying. I am taking this class, too, and paying good money to be here. Please be quiet.”
If she continued to interrupt, I would complain to the teacher, and inform him that if he did not deal with her behavior, I would be contacting the dean (or whomever oversees your classes). The teacher needs to be in charge. It is part of their responsibility.


Margaret April 21, 2014 at 9:51 am

Assuming you paid for the class, then someone is in charge of the program beyond the teacher. Escalate to them. Maybe they will remove the woman from the class.


Whodunit April 21, 2014 at 10:09 am

This is common. I take a lot of classes/seminars and this happens almost always. Since it is an adult, teachers are reluctant to give out consequences for interruptions and it’s nearly impossible. So I have found that as students, we have to speak up — graciously of course. At a recent class a student answered my question. I waited courteously and then said to the teacher, ” I would like to hear what YOU think of what I just asked?” And it really worked well ( at least in my case).


Snarkastic April 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Smart. What a polite and pointed solution.


startruck April 21, 2014 at 10:16 am

i may be wrong here, but it sounds to me like this is the kind of lady who, is of course older and probably has kids who recently moved out and might have signed on for the class to have some social interaction or a hobby of some sort. what she really needs is a hobby thats not in class room setting. she might want to try joining a book club where she can talk for long periods of time about a book and no one would fault her, or maybe a country club where gossip and chatter is always welcome. not to excuse her behavior , but i think she is looking for something in the wrong place. poor gal.


Ripple April 21, 2014 at 10:27 am

I’m not sure that pointing out she’s interrupting will help, as she doesn’t seem to catch that anyway. I have a different suggestion. Instead of pointing out that she’s interrupting others, when she starts speaking out of turn, everyone, including the teacher, blatantly turn away and look at something else – the walls, the ceiling, anything but her. When she realizes she doesn’t have anyone’s attention, she may stop. Then the teacher can pointedly ask someone else for the answer or continue the sentence that was interrupted. This will slow down the actual teaching time, but as it seems to get broken up anyway, you probably won’t lose that much.


another Laura April 22, 2014 at 7:57 am

I was thinking of a similar approach, except that as soon as she interrupted or went off topic, everyone would start loudly singing a French song, like La Marseillaise.


sio8bhan April 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

Maybe the whole class could do an intervention. All of the other students and the instructor could form a circle with their desks/chairs, when the motormouth takes a seat, and an appointed leader could start talking, and everyone could put in their individual grievances, while talking over her voice. The instructor could tell her that she’s not allowed in class until she learns respect for others.
I’m only partially kidding. I’ve spent too many years being interrupted and talked-over.


Margaret April 21, 2014 at 10:52 am

If the teacher can’t control her, someone needs to control the teacher. I think your only recourse is to complain higher, that you aren’t satisfied with course, aren’t getting your money’s worth because the teacher isn’t handling the class.

You are likely not alone with your frustration. Can you get others to join you in going to the dean or department head?


Random Reader April 21, 2014 at 11:34 am

If she’s not responding to obvious cues, someone (by which I mean the teacher) needs to tell her to stop talking. Perhaps the teacher could make an announcement about how “classroom discussion” has gotten a bit out of hand, so he’s going to be reigning it back in. Then, when she talks out of turn, he should tell her to stop. He should not wait until she finishes what she’s saying.

Example: “Well, I watched a video on Paris once–” “Ms. Mouthy, please don’t talk during the video/we’re not talking about that right now/this is not a time for classroom discussion/the question was addressed to me.” “Well I just wanted to say–” “Please, stop talking.” “But I-” “Stop talking.”

Yes, it’s harsh, but as someone who’s MO is to dominate conversations with brute force, the teacher would need to do the same. Plus, it will become pretty funny if she continues to talk while he says “Stop talking” over and over. At that point, it will be crystal clear that what she is doing is unwelcome, so she will either pipe down or end up yelling. At that point, it should be no problem to have her either dismissed for the day…or indefinitely.


JO April 21, 2014 at 11:38 am

Is it possible this woman has a form of autism, or another social disorder, and that it is actually *impossible* for her to understand that she is disrupting everything? Even if she does, of course that doesn’t make it OK for her to constantly and continually disrupt the entire class. Talk to a higher-up, make it clear that the teacher is trying to control the situation but is being bulldozed. I am aware of situations like this where the socially challenged person attends the class with a support person (sometimes even another student) who helps keep the challenged person in check. But if something like that is not an option, or she really is just that clueless (as opposed to challenged), she may need a dean/program director to have a sit down and explain in no uncertain terms that she is ruining the class for everyone, and needs to tone it down or leave.


Dee April 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I, too, wonder if this woman has a developmental issue of some sort. Doesn’t have to be autism but it certainly is something. But, as you say, that does not make her behaviour okay. It is a fine line between accommodation and responsibility but this woman has clearly stepped over that line. If she is high functioning enough to be considered capable of taking unadapted courses then she has the responsibility to behave in a way that is not disruptive to others. She can be odd or loud or weird or whatever but not unnecessarily disruptive. A hard lesson for some but no one is doing her any favors by allowing her to become so hated. I think the biggest issue here is that she is being allowed to be disruptive, and she may take more courses in the future, so the OP may have her in other classes in the future. This needs to be dealt with, NOW.


Rap April 22, 2014 at 10:43 am

You know, thats something I seriously would like to see addressed – where is the line in the sand when someone may or may not have a developemental issue. I recently had a go around with someone on this topic – some kids were rude in a hyper repetative questioning way to someone (asking the same question, or a variation of the same question, over and over while the adult was trapped and couldn’t just tell the kid to go away as the adult was being filmed). Someone speculates if the kid was rude because he was autistic and on the spectrum, and a parent of an autistic child immediately gets angry that people are equating autism with rudeness and how dare anyone assume an autistic child can’t be polite.

What are we supposed to do? If I correct a child for rudeness and the kid is autistic, I am a horrible person for not seeing the invisible label and expecting a kid to act age appropriate. If I assume someone has a developmental delay, I’m also on the hook for being so rude as to think people with developmental delays can’t manage.

In this case – Ms. Teacher Pet Wanna Be – how disruptive does she have to be in order for people to not be expected to deal with her *possible* impairment?


Joy McDonald April 22, 2014 at 8:39 pm

My youngest son used to ask me many times during the day what we were having for dinner. I got tired of answering the same question over and over so after the second time I would calmly reply, “Asked and answered.”
I don’t know if he made a point of remembering the answer or if he was genuinely surprised at what meal appeared, but he stopped hounding me with the same question.


SamiHami April 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I had one of those in one of my college classes. It was fairly intense class and the interruptions were maddening. It happened during every single class. The instructor was clearly frustrated and all attempts to shut miss motormouth up failed. He finally just told her to leave the class for the day when she interrrupted. She wound up missing so many classes she dropped it. All because she couldn’t be quiet and have a little respect for others.


Wendy B. April 23, 2014 at 9:23 am

In all the college classes I had, there was only ever one time a student did this. It was a Civil War survey class with close to 200 students and one sat in front of me and chattered the entire time…mostly commenting to himself about what the professor was saying and trying to anticipate what he was going to talk about next. Most of us learned to ignore, but one day it got so bad the professor stopped the class and told him if he continued the professor would have him removed! It got very quiet after that.


Rap April 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I would also point out that the teacher “doing nothing” is likely because there’s been some public cases where students being corrected for inappropriate behavior complained because the professor told them to shush. There was a case a few years ago where a 16 year old in a college course was told by a professor to email his questions because she didn’t want the disruption in class. The student made a huge stink about it, that he was Aspergers or LD(I don’t remember which) and the teacher was discriminating against him.

Only come to find out, he was asking non stop questions, and had his hand up from start to finish in every class and was all around derailing the entire learning process for the whole class.


JKC April 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Speaking as a college professor, there are some potential (legal) problems with this situation and some of the proposed solutions. While the admin’s initial suggestion may sound satisfying, it could land the instructor in hot, hot water if he gives her a zero in the presence of other students. This could be considered a violation of the student’s FERPA (the educational equivalent of HIPAA) rights, making the school vulnerable to a lawsuit and (highly likely, especially if he doesn’t have tenure) getting him fired. As someone else said, the syllabus is also considered to be a binding contract between the students and the instructor; unless he has left himself some sort of ‘out’ clause, he probably can’t introduce any new policies at this point. Mine, for example, says in giant bold letters that “any situation not described in the previous pages will be settled at the discretion of the instructor” and also gives me the right to make changes to the schedule as needed. You have to spell that out though, or students can challenge your decisions.

On one hand, most institutions allow professors to remove run-of-the-mill disruptive students from their classes. However, the other thing that could make this a very, very sticky problem is if the disruptive student happens to be disabled. I have had more than one student who is (according to their accommodation letters) somewhat disruptive BECAUSE of the nature of their disability. This is not something that I can fix, nor can I share this information (by law) with the other students in the class. All I can do is redirect the discussion or employ one of the other strategies that the OP’s professor is already using. If the other students gang up on a disabled person, all they’re going to do is make things worse for the instructor, because the Disabilities Services Office will interpret this as a potential harassment case. OP, please consider that the professor may actually be doing everything that he can get away with already. If it’s something that you feel is affecting your grade, please do communicate your concerns. He may be a young instructor who could benefit from constructive feedback, or this may be one of the above situations and his hands are tied. Whatever you do, please don’t go over his head without talking to him first. To do otherwise would be extremely rude.


jen d. April 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

This is great advice. Ugh, what a situation for the instructor. Would he have more ground to stand on if he had written complaints from students? And is there any legal way for him to find out if the student has any disabilities?

It really sounds like she has no idea how bad she’s being. If the instructor pulled her aside after class and told her directly that her behaviour is disruptive and she could be asked to leave if she continues it might make a difference, but he could get himself into legal trouble….


JKC April 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm

He would only be required to grant accommodation(s) if the student presented him with a letter from DS, and even in that case, the student is only entitled to the accommodation(s) spelled out on that document, nothing more. If he has a letter, then he is aware of the existence of a disability, but he may not know the exact nature of the problem, as the letters do not specify to protect student privacy. IF that is the case (and I’m still only speculating here), there may not be much recourse for the other students, except to get around it by seeing the instructor outside of class or perhaps forming their own study group(s). In extreme cases where students can’t get along, we sometimes shift someone into a different section of the same class, but I would caution the OP not to pursue this unless things are just intolerable. No one wants to be thought of as a high-maintenance case, after all.

If the student is disabled, the professor could, in the most caring and compassionate manner possible, take her aside after class and chat about possible solutions and ways he could help her so that she can be less disruptive. He can also approach the DS coordinator and ask for their help in handling the student (I’ve done this a time or two with good results). But in that scenario, he might not be able to remove her from the class and escalating the issue might get the OP some sympathetic words from administrators, but not much else.

If the student is not disabled and/or she has not provided him a letter allowing for her behavior, then hearing his other students’ concerns might motivate him to take her aside and lay down the law. It sounds like he cares about their experience and is trying to minimize the disruption while still maintaining a professional atmosphere, and it is also very possible that he may find her at least mildly annoying but not realize the extent to which it bothers anyone else.


jen d. April 23, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Thanks for the reply! It sounds pretty similar to what I do as an elementary teacher. When any of my students are disruptive (with IEP’s or no) I can easily speak with them, but it’s harder with adults. I feel for this prof – what a nightmare to deal with.


Elizabeth April 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

JKC nicely explains why the instructor may not be able to control or remove this person but doesn’t address students’ demanding a refund for services not delivered. Instructor is going to end up with a class of ONE, and he/she will be putting up with her.


Susan April 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm

As another professor, I heartily second JKC’s comments and advice. We view our syllabus as a binding contract, so it’s very hard to change rules mid-term. Further, if this student is registered with the disabilities office, that’s another kettle of worms.

So what to do? Talk with a couple classmates to see if you are all on the same page and, if so, arrange that each of you will individually talk to your professor during his/her office hours. Ask your professor what you can do to be part of the solution. At the worst, s/he’ll say “nothing”, but will at know that you are a concerned and involved student, and at the best you may be able to help.

Personally, I’ve never had an over-eager pet wannable, but I had the opposite: a disruptive student in class once who was glowering, interrupted class with obtuse challenges to the way I had explained something, and did stuff like asked students to be added to their group assignment when he’d contributed nothing. Some of my students nervously joked to me that he seemed like the next mass murderer. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a d@#& thing I could do about it after I reported it to our student conduct office and our campus security. Had a few students also sent individual emails to any appropriate authority saying that their learning environment was negatively affected (especially if they mentioned they felt their safety was at risk), likely something would have been done. As it was, we all suffered through a tense last month of classes, and I did make sure to, um, bullet-proof my syllabus for all future terms.

So in short- see your professor and see if you can be part of the solution. And, per JKC, please don’t go over his/her head until you do.


JO April 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm

These are great points. I was part of a program in college that assisted students in the disability center – on a volunteer basis – by pairing the volunteers with a student in their class with disabilities. Helping take notes, after class discussions to help clarify lectures, mostly things like that. But also helping in the class to remind the folks with social disorders how to keep themselves in check. This woman might also benefit from some medication, as suggested by a poster below. But of course, all these things are completely out of the hands of OP here. If this woman wanted to share her disability (assuming it even exits; maybe she really is just an attention hog) she would have done so. Especially given the amount she talks.
As a side note, that program in my college turned out to be very enriching for me! I entered school planning on working in writing and/or advertising, but ended up continuing to work with disabled folks as a career, and I love my work! OP, maybe you can check if your school or program has something like this?


Michelle C Young April 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Yes, talk to the teacher first! Most problems can be solved with some careful communication, and you do not want to cause more trouble, trying to fix one problem.

Your teacher is probably doing his/her best, and would be open to ideas, but is also probably facing the very real possibility of legal problems, so do take care.

Good luck with this!


kingsrings April 21, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Having worked at a college for 2 years, I agree with what other college workers on here have already mentioned about the difficulty of enforcing discipline in the classroom with difficult students. Unfortunately, there’s just too great of a risk with the student being sided with if they take it up with the authorities and the teacher being the one getting into trouble over the matter. That is why a lot of teachers just let the student be disruptive – they’re very afraid of the consequences if they take action. It’s a very sad and unfortunate situation that bad students are allowed to have that power.

I remember once recently reading an article on a very successful, over-achieving student. I think she was a young college student or just graduating from high school. The article mentioned (and praised!) that one of the keys to her successes is that she never allowed any of her classmates to answer the teacher’s questions. Some people truly think that being successful means pushing everyone else out of the way and becoming completely narcissistic and inconsiderate.


WMK April 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

“I remember once recently reading an article on a very successful, over-achieving student. I think she was a young college student or just graduating from high school. The article mentioned (and praised!) that one of the keys to her successes is that she never allowed any of her classmates to answer the teacher’s questions. Some people truly think that being successful means pushing everyone else out of the way and becoming completely narcissistic and inconsiderate.”

It kind of makes me wonder how this person plans on handling the working world, because there are very few situations I can imagine where this attitude would fly!


Kirst April 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This is for the teacher to deal with. If the teacher won’t – or in this case, can’t – deal with it, it needs to be raised higher up and a plan of action agreed on. I would suggest that you and some of the other students talk to the teacher about how disruptive the woman is and the best way to deal with her behaviour. The teacher might be roused to discuss it with his/her senior.

Or, the entire class buys themselves a selection of kazoos and vuvuzelas, and every time the woman interrupts, you all blow them at once.


Cat April 22, 2014 at 8:12 am

They could play La Marseillaise on their kazoos and stand. That might not help, but it would certainly be funny. Those without kazoos could sing.


lakey April 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

I have a relative like this. She absolutely craves attention and affirmation. Sadly, because her social skills are annoying, instead of impressing people she drives them away. It’s a vicious cycle, she tries to hard to impress people, they don’t give her the positive feedback she wants, she tries even harder, which makes them even more annoyed. I’d bet money that this woman in OP’s class has few friends.


EllenS April 21, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Since it’s gotten to a level that the professor canoot control, Rather than attempt in any way to control this rude person’s behavior, I would see the professor privately and ask to have my tution transferred for another class.

It’s not fair but someone that far gone is unlikely to respond to any sort of correction or confrontation from me. It’s like the old saying, “Never try to teach a pig to dance. It just tires you out and annoys the pig.”

If I’m not getting a good class experience, I would transfer to a different one.


JeanLouiseFinch April 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm

This makes me miss my high school French teacher who would clap her hands loudly and say “Ecoutez! Attendez!” whenever people were not listening or were talking out of turn. Because there are a number of legal problems that people are justifiably raising, I would suggest that a few of the students get together and corral this woman after class to (kindly) advise her that she is being disruptive when she behaves like she does. If you frame this discussion as “something that you would rather not say but someone has to do it,” and let her know that her interruptions and answering questions not directed to her are adversely impacting other students’ learning experiences, she might just be embarrassed enough to back down. If this does not work, after warning the teacher, you could all go to the administration of the school and inform them that none of you will sign up for further courses if she is allowed to sign up again; that despite everything the teacher has done, this lady has derailed the class. They will kick her out if their income stream is threatened.


Wild Irish Rose April 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Catering to one person at the expense of everyone else is maddening. Years ago, I was applying for a teaching certificate in a state to which I had recently moved. I had to go to the state’s capital and take various exams to be certified to teach in that state; one of the exams, believe it or not, was in French. I had to stay in a motel the night before taking the exam, then report to the exam station at some stupid hour like 7:00 a.m. The exam was schedule to begin promptly at 8:00 a.m.; at that time, according to all the paperwork those taking the test at received, the door would be closed and locked and the test would start. If you didn’t arrive on time, tough luck; you would have to reschedule your test.
One woman was late. Like 30 minutes late. And the examiner WAITED FOR HER!!!! I paid nearly $100 (which was a lot for me) to take this stupid test, and the examiner waited until this person got there, holding up everyone in the room. Then, when the woman finally arrived, we were forced to wait AGAIN while she went to the ladies’ room! I know I shouldn’t have let this get to me, but this was my livelihood I was dealing with–I had to have that certification or I couldn’t teach in that state–and I’m afraid I let this situation upset me. I did point out to the examiner, while the latecomer was in the restroom, that she was basically penalizing those of us who had had the wherewithal to show up on time and reminded her of what the rules were, but she completely ignored me (and the others in the room who echoed my statement). Needless to say, by this time I was so flustered that I didn’t do well on the test.
I wrote to the state Department of Education and complained, but I never got a response, nor did I get my money back or any kind of satisfaction whatsoever. To this day, I still get annoyed when people are late to something like this, but I get even MORE annoyed with the powers that be who accommodate those people. OP, if I were you, yes, I would speak with the professor but I would also talk with the dean or whoever is really in charge and point out that you didn’t pay for this course to hear this rude woman expound on her wealth of knowledge, but to learn conversational French. Perhaps the teacher needs to insist that ALL comments must be made in French–if Rude Lady is not already doing that, it may slow her down some.


SV April 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Simple is best. A straightforward, polite, ” Please don’t interrupt me, ” with a calm, impassive stare will get the point across. Repeat as needed.


Lanes April 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Maybe I’m missing some major etiquette lesson here, but I can’t see what’s wrong with, as soon as she starts interrupting, turning to her, looking her in the eye and saying loudly (ie, louder than her) “excuse me, I wasn’t done talking”, and then continuing with what you were saying.

If everybody in the class did that, surely she’d get it? There’s no room for misunderstanding with a straightforward comment said directly to her face.


Cat April 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I like the notion of pretending that she is not there and that no one heard her question or her uncalled-for answer. Just carry on as if she is not there at all. Talk loud enough to be heard over her, as one would for a crying baby. She will eventually complain and it can be dealt with privately.
I had a boy who constantly interrupted. I had someone keep a count of how many times he interrupted with needless comments. He was shocked to realize just how often he was doing it.
In my high school world history class, a boy was trying to talk to one of the girls while I was explaining the six wives of Henry VIII of England. The girl turned to him and, in a loud voice, exclaimed, “Would you shut up? I am trying to listen!” I don’t think he spoke again that year.
We are taught never to be rude, but sometimes one must fight fire with fire.


PatGreen April 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I was very much like this for most of my academic career and had difficultly stopping myself from talking in class, on and off topic. I was diagnosed with ADD my senior year of college after a teacher figured out that talking was a compulsion not a choice and persuaded me to see a psychologist who put me on medication and made my time in graduate school much better.

Before I was diagnosed, I did realize that I could talk too much and had difficulty regulating myself. I would speak to the teacher after my first class with him or her and tell him or her that he or she could tell me to stop talking if I went on too long. I would also tally how many times I spoke and limit the number of times I opened my mouth. It wasn’t easy or a perfect system. It was like having an itch. The longer you held off the harder it was.

It had nothing to do with politeness or respect and everything to do with a disorder. I’m not saying the classmate should be diagnosed, but my life was changed for the better when a teacher spoke to me. Maybe suggest that she visit a doctor and inquire about disorders. It she is you’ll have done her an unbelievable service. If she’s not, then maybe the knowledge that other people think she has a disorder will shut her up.


InTheEther April 21, 2014 at 10:43 pm

At a certain point it becomes pointless to treat someone like a reasonable mature adult when they show no signs of being reasonable and mature. Basically, my suggestion would be to lower the age of how you treat her until you hit the sweet spot. Really, revert to baby talk if you need to. Hopefully at some point she realizes that she’s being treated like a child and it embarrasses her into aging how she acts. Increase how much you all talk down to her until she gets the message.

At a certain point you really might just need to be mean. It’s not a good option, but some people are so oblivious that they will willfully ignore anything with any hint of subtleness. Outright ask if her mother really never taught her that it was rude to interrupt people, and that most people grow out of trying to drown out other people by the age of 12. If she interrupt a video ask if she has ADD and if the response is anything other than an admittance and quick apology then ask her why she doesn’t seem capable of getting through a short video like the rest of the class. When she answers for someone straight out say that she was not asked and you want to hear the person you really asked, or just state that she is not part of that conversation.

The best shutdowns I ever saw in high school was when a student was really trying a teacher and another student sat up and straight out asked “What is wrong with you?” The end result tends to be settling down out of embarrassment, or crossed arms and sulking, which works just as well and is easily ignored.


Allie April 22, 2014 at 12:39 am

There’s one in every class. I’ve been a student off and on for many years and there’s always one. Most recently, there was one in my pre-natal class. My husband dubbed her motor-mouth. The only time she ever stopped talking was when she was eating loudly in the middle of class (a small, quiet snack I get, but she’d bring entire meals and start laying out multiple containers of food for her and her husband – and their 2 year old, whom they occasionally brought to class – to consume in the middle of the discussion). The teacher very diplomatically made it clear that everyone was to be given an equal opportunity to speak. It didn’t help that much, but then she wasn’t quite as bad as what you’re dealing with. It agree with those who have said it’s really the instructor’s place to deal with it and your only recourse is to the instructor and perhaps the dean if things are really intolerable. In the end, you may just have to avoid her in future classes. If you see her there on day one, drop the class before the deadline and take something else. It may seem unfair that you’re the one being driven away when she’s the one behaving so badly, but you know what they say… life ain’t fair.


Cathy April 22, 2014 at 1:40 am

I was in classes with this type of student when I was getting my paralegal certificate. There were two guys who apparently were just there to pass the time rather than get certificates and they disrupted every class they were in with a lot of endless and pointless questions, which often had nothing to do with the subject. (We all had to take the same small number of classes, so a lot of the same students were in the same classes.) They were particularly disruptive in one class where the teacher was just too nice to shut them down. Finally several students stayed after class and told the teacher we were all fed up and he needed to step up and keep the class on task so we would finish the material in the time given. He got it and from that time on he told the two disruptors to hold their questions until after class. It actually worked. Then he’d say “Oh, sorry, gotta go” to them and take off, so they never got the satisfaction of holding forth on whatever topic they wanted to discuss. I know it’s hard with some people, but really, sometimes you just have to put your foot down. I noticed that some of the other teachers were able to keep control over their classes more effectively than others; I think the students sometimes take advantage of the “nicer” teachers because they know they won’t do anything. And I also think if the teacher is firm up front about keeping the class on task, it sends a message to everyone that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.


Medowynd April 22, 2014 at 2:10 am

I took a speech class in my senior year of high school. There was a disruptive student, every day, some new interruption. We couldn’t get through a speech or any topic without his juvenile comments.

I got up to do a presentation and he had been acting up. The student made some comment about my anger and I let him have it about his disrespectful, juvenile behavior. When I was through, there were no more comments from him and the 24-year-old teacher assumed more control of the classroom. She actually started speaking to the student, instead of ignoring him. I graduated a few weeks later and thankfully, never saw him again.


Margo April 22, 2014 at 5:51 am

I agree with those saying be direct. If it is *you* she interrupts, or of she starts to answer a question *you* have asked the teacher, then speak up.
Say “please don’t interrupt me” or “I asked [Teacher’s Name] the question”

I would also recommend speaking privately to the teacher. it may be that he will be in a better potion to address her behaviour if he has evidence that it is disrupting other students, so you speaking to him (and other students doing so) may help him. Equally, and dependent on what he says, you (and other students) putting in a written complaint to the institution may help.


Angel April 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

I am not sure that the teacher can do much more than what he is doing already. Unfortunately that does not help you as a student who wants to get something out of the class. I second those who say talk to the teacher and ask what you can do to help make the situation better. It’s really important that all of you are on the same page–and employ consistent strategies on how to deal with the chatterbox. Hopefully as the chatterbox is a grown woman the situation will resolve on its own. Why not form study groups outside of class so you can all get some work done independent of the chatterbox?


AnaMaria April 22, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I had a student (middle school ESL classroom, almost all students were recent newcomers to the US and had come from war-torn countries) who could not handle anything less than the center of attention. If I didn’t call on him to answer every single question, he would either throw a tantrum or start trouble just to get the attention back on him. In parent-teacher conferences, his mother started sobbing when his behavior was brought up and saying no one understood what he had been through, they had just moved to the U.S. and their father hadn’t made it over yet and he couldn’t help the way he was…Well, as I just mentioned, this was a newcomer program and NONE of the students had just casually up and moved here, and no one else in the class had such behavior issues.

It’s been an ongoing battle with this student, but one step I took was to hand out participation tokens (just cardboard circles with “PARTICIPATE!” written on them) when we worked in small groups. Each student got two tokens and handed them in every time they had a question or a comment (unless it was an emergency). Once everyone had handed in all their tokens, I would redistribute them and start over. This particular student would immediately use both his tokens and then try to steal other classmates’ tokens when they weren’t looking, but he eventually figured out that he couldn’t get away with that (I kept my eye on him!). It made things easier for me as a teacher because I could “blame” the tokens for having to tell him to wait and let other classmates participate- I wasn’t telling him to pipe down because I didn’t like him or was out to get him, I was telling him to wait because he had handed in both his tokens and his classmates still had all of theirs!!

Of course this particular model would be impossible in an adult class, but something to measure or monitor participation can help more dominating students pipe down and get quieter students to speak up!


Daphne April 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm

OK so this is sort of a joke–but if all else fails…maybe bring an air horn or rape whistle or some such loud thing to class. Maybe a short, loud, “PFFFEEETT” each time she interrupts might get the message across?? 😉


OneUp April 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Oh yeah…I LIKE this! And every time the ninny opens her yap out of turn, have the teacher let her have it with the air horn. Drown the biddy out. And if she complains, the teacher should inform her, “Well this is what you sound like to us when you interrupt.”

I also like the time-outs in the hallway. If she’s going to act like an undisciplined 5-year-old, she should be treated like one.

I’m not advocating harming animals, but I’m reminded of the saying: if smacked in the head often enough, even the dimmest lab-rat can learn.


Angel April 23, 2014 at 9:04 pm

I have a friend who used to shake a large jar of pennies when her cats jumped up on her countertops–after a while they would associate the loud noise with the behavior and stop the behavior. Maybe the OP could get the whole class to contribute to the jar lol


Judy April 22, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I teach (crafting classes) and there is ALWAYS one student who tries to make the class all about them. Every single thing must be commented on, and they are the true experts. A friend came up with a term, “classh@les,” which describes them perfectly.


Michelle C Young April 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

I would be tempted to stand up in class, and announce that I’m passing around a hat, so that everyone who wants to can chip in to give this student her tuition back, so she can leave without having lost any money. Either that, or ask her to pay all the students in the class THEIR tuition back, since clearly she doesn’t want them to get the education they paid for.

I would be soooo tempted. But that would be very rude.

So, how to actually get the point across? Can the teacher send her for a time-out in the hallway? It works in elementary school. Or maybe the teacher can give her an “extra credit” assignment of writing, “I will not interrupt,” 500 times? Does the teacher have the authority to do anything like that?

I’m afraid you’ll have to discuss this, out of class, with the teacher, and strategize before the next class. Get some classmates in on the strategizing session, so that there are witnesses, in case she decides to complain to the school administration.

I’m so sorry you’re going through this.


OneUp April 22, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Here’s an idea: get everyone in the class together on this beforehand, and when the annoying student starts talking, have everyone start repeating everything she says *as* she says it. You’ll all be talking one beat after her, so you’ll sound like a really loud echo. It sounds more difficult than it is, but with a little concentration, it can be done. Who knows, it could get the point across. At least you’ll finally be able to drown her out.

I heard about people on a bus who did this to shut up a loudmouth in a cell-phone. It started with one or two people, and eventually ramped up until everyone on the bus was doing it…including the driver!


Clockwork Banana April 23, 2014 at 3:34 am

I just have to say that ‘bloviate’ is my word of the day! And classh@les runs a close second.

Yes, there is always that one who feels the need to be the funniest, smartest, ‘cutsy-est’; or conversely enjoys being the most antagonistic, argumentative or annoying in the group. As someone who also takes a fair number of adult classes, I have found that the best way to shut down a fellow student who is disruptive is to be direct and blunt. Hints do not work.

Sometimes if you infuse your comment with a tone of exasperation mixed with light-hearted annoyance it can help take the sting out of what might be necessary rudeness. “Could you puleeeeze stop interrupting. You are driving everybody batwing!” (Or, if you are uncomfortable with speaking for others, than just “You are driving ME batwing!.


WMK April 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

It’s fairly obvious that if she’s bugging the instructor (and you), she’s probably bugging the rest of the class with her interruptions.

I wonder if there would be a way for the instructor to pull her aside and explain to her that he’s been getting complaints about her behavior and that maybe she would benefit from one-on-one instruction. You can bet your life that if I was paying for this class and this was occurring I would be complaining!


Enna May 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

Have a word with the teacher: if any of the other studnets are willing to speak to the techer as well then that will be good. If he does not do anything then go over his head. Sounds to me she needs to ave a talk and if she can’t change she needs to be expelled.


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