Open Forum

Difficult Behaviors

  • 1.  Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-05-2019 10:10
    Hi all!

    I’m in need of some advice: how do you handle students with difficult behaviors. I have a student who doesn’t want to be apart of performances, let alone practice. Rehearsals happen during class time. I’ve tried the stage hand approach but there is honestly so much they can do.

    And yes, I’ve asked for administrative help... now I’m here. Any advice would be helpful!

    Lesleigh Valette

    College of Southern Nevada
    Henderson NV

  • 2.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-05-2019 10:38
    Replace him and let him fail.  If rehearsals happen during class, then it is obvious this person took a performance class as an elective.  Ensure that the parent knows that you have no choice but to let him or her fail, and move on.  This world isn't for everybody, and some students are INTENDING to fall through the cracks.  Do not allow this to detract in any way from what you provide for the rest of the class.  I teach a very well appointed, well funded stage craft class in a world class facility.  I tell them from the beginning, if I stop trying with you, if I stop talking to you, if I won't give you that FIFTH CHANCE to be worthy of all of this, then I have written you off.  Move forward.

    Robert Birdsong
    Maumelle AR

  • 3.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-06-2019 07:41
    There is always a reason for kids to act out. If you get to the bottom of that by asking the right questions and listening, you are on your way to understanding why there is difficult behavior. Once that is established, you can proceed with some remedies.

    Angela Hillman
    Director of CAPA
    Livonia Public Schools
    Plymouth MI

  • 4.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-06-2019 10:04
    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

    If he's totally not interested, you can - and should - only go so far. You're his teacher, not his psychologist.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 5.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-06-2019 12:37
    Edited by Holly Striska 12-06-2019 12:39
    I've run into this.  In a class, I never give up trying, even though it's hard.  Sometimes the student still fails, but I try until the end.  That said, you have to consider the production as a whole.  What I generally do is assign that student something to do that, if never done, will not negatively affect the production as a whole (i.e make a prop that you can pull from your stock or play a role that another student can double up to do, etc.).  It's not easy, and it can leave you pulling out your hair, but that's the job we've signed up for.  Good luck!

    UPDATE:  Do grade them on what they do or do not do and call home.  Also, try to find out if there is some issue.  I had a student who would not participate in rehearsals once we were on line calls.  Turns out that he had a lot of trouble memorizing his lines and the other students were making fun of him.  It was easier for him to be defiant than "dumb".  I ended up having another student run lines with him whenever he was not on stage.  He learned his lines and I became his ally.

    Holly Striska
    Theater Teacher
    Berwyn IL

  • 6.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-08-2019 00:24
    Hi Lesleigh

    From your signature, this appears to be a college student.  If so, no need to involve the parents (in fact, if the student is over 18, you can't).

    If this is a required course, as many of mine are, and you have a student who has to take the course but refuses to be a part of the activity, simply make it clear (with a paper trail) that participation and behavior have consequences.  In our area of study, it is often hard to quantify behavior, so I came up with this rubric, which has served me well for almost two decades.
    A     Outstanding/Always surpasses expectations/Exceeds highest standard of excellence
    A-    Outstanding/Frequently surpasses expectations/Meets highest standard of excellence
    B+   Excellent/Proficient/Always achieves expectations/Exceeds acceptable standards
    B     Excellent/Proficient/Frequently achieves expectations/Exceeds acceptable standards
    B-    Very good/Punctual/Frequently achieves expectations/Meets acceptable standards
    C+   Very good/Punctual/Occasionally achieves expectations/Meets acceptable standards
    C     Satisfactory/Punctual/Occasionally achieves expectations/Meets minimum standards
    D     Ordinary/Unmotivated/Only works when asked/Does not meet minimum standards
    F      Poor/No work ethic/Unsatisfactory performance/Failed to show/No contact

    This rubric works, regardless of the discipline (performance, tech, design, etc).  It is also a winner when you have a group who all expect A's if the show actually opens.  If someone who shows up on time and does only what is asked of them asks me why they got a C, I first congratulate them on a job well done and tell them how proud I am of them for earning that C, then, I can legitimately ask them which of those statements adequately describes their attitude and participation on this particular project.

    Feel free to steal this and modify it to fit your world :-).

    All my best!

    Tracy Nunnally
    NIU - Professor/TD/Area Head (
    Vertigo - Owner/System Designer (
    Nuthouse Design & Production - Owner/CEO (
    ETCP Certified Rigger/Trainer/Employer
    DeKalb, Illinois

  • 7.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-08-2019 09:06
    "Mr. Difficult...we are all defined by the choices we make..what is yours?  Are you in or out?  IN means working as a team... OUT means going home and watching what is it? 

  • 8.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-09-2019 20:18
    Lesleigh, you list a college.  Is this a college class, or are you doing the teaching portion of a licensure program?  That makes a huge difference.

    If this is a high school class, a participation rubric may work, especially if you post the grades weekly.  Hand out the rubric and take a few minutes to explain it and answer questions.  I always kept a class roll with me during class so I could put down pluses, minuses, or notes that helped me determine grades.  It might take posting grades daily for a week to get the students to understand that every single day counts.

    For the future, using a contract for classes that require a performance (including dates of performances) is really important.  Having parents sign on in the first week of the semester is a good way to keep kids from deciding to back out during rehearsals.

    But for this show, here are some things you might try, and I suggest this order.
    1. Call the parent.
    2. Have a meeting with the student and his guidance counselor.  Find out what is keeping him from participating.  Maybe he is afraid of not being able to learn the lines or feels vulnerable about presenting himself as a character.  Maybe he doesn't understand that the course counts as a grade and what failing it will do to his GPA and why that matters.
    3. If it becomes clear that this student is not going to be onstage, assign him real duties in support of the show.  Besides helping to move set pieces, scenery, props, etc., there are tons of other tasks that students can do.  Covering prop tables with white paper and marking an area for each prop is an important task.  Do you have someone designing a poster and program yet?  (Multiple students can do this, then you can choose one.)  Once posters are printed, you can have students hang them up around campus.  How about typing and laying out the program?  Do you need sound for the show?  Making a list of necessary sound cues, then looking up sound cues and using a simple program like Audacity to manipulate them is a great task for a student or two with an interest in computer programs.  Do costumes need to be hemmed, ironed, or have buttons resewn?  If you have stock costume shoes, you can have students polish them.

    I am attaching a rehearsal rubric I've used successfully.

    Good luck.

    C. J. Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC

  • 9.  RE: Difficult Behaviors

    Posted 12-09-2019 20:28
    I can't get the files to upload.  Contact me if you'd like to see my rubrics.

    C. J. Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC