Manipulative student

One of my Algebra 1 students is very manipulative and acts very mature for her age. Interactions with her are especially draining. I previously wrote about one incident when she told me my hands were dirty and was not allowed to touch her cell phone.

Today she was walking around the room showing photos to her friends. She was not working. When I asked her to start working, she told me: “I’ve been trying to ask you for help this whole time but you’ve been ignoring me.” She said this very loudly in front of everyone in a whiny tone. I almost snapped, but good thing I didn’t. In a firm tone, I said that that was absolutely untrue, that I had been watching her the whole time, and that she never once tried to ask me for help. She still claimed she still needed help and so, after I finished helping another student I went to her desk. She had not even started the work yet. I asked what she needed help with and she said “No, I don’t want your help anymore.” She didn’t do any work the whole period. She uses these kinds of manipulative actions on me regularly, and for some reason they really drain me, much more than the usual kind of defiance or rebellion. Ugh.

3 thoughts on “Manipulative student

  1. There’s only so much you can do with a student like this, I feel — and I had a few. You can either choose to ignore the behavior or try to lock it down; it’s when the student is walking around the room with photos that she is causing a problem.

    And the problem is that she’s distracting other students; if she decides she’s not working during the period, that’s pretty much set, unless she’s motivated by grading (unlikely). If you can find a way to minimize the amount to which this student distracts you and others, that’s a success in itself.

    It sucks. And it’s got nothing to do with your behavior, so try not to let it get to you. I might have sent the student out of the room for that outburst, especially since there is precedent for it.

    Good luck buddy!

  2. This is the tough stuff about dealing with people. As you described that situation, I could feel the feeling of being so irritated and simultaneously trying to come up with a reasonable response.

    I think that sometimes these are the students that are actually crying out for one-on-one attention. As long as they are in front of their peers, their behavior is pretty awful. One-on-one there is sometimes hope.

    It also reminds me of the parenting advice to “catch them doing good.” I try to remember that people generally don’t treat each other that way when they are happy and self-confident.

    I sounds like this one is going to be a really tough nut to crack. Hopefully with clear expectations (“When you have a question and I am helping another student, please write the question on your paper”), encouragement (“I know you can do this stuff”) and sympathy/empathy (maybe not expressed out loud but to help you keep from exploding!), you both will end up in a better place.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  3. Hey d-bear:
    This happened to me today. A student told me she raised her hand (2 seconds) and I did not help her so she gave up (2+ mins ongoing). She had turned her paper over so when i went to her she was like…no.
    I went back to her a few minutes later and told her (privately) that i i did not see her hand. She turned her paper over and showed me the problem. Yowser. That was way too much patience on my part. Another, in the hall today told me he was going to “shove his progress report up my butt.” 9th graders… [need I say more, cuz I can]

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