Hello, this is John Fallon, community college English Instructor and instructor of Verbal Judo. Last night in English Composition class I had a particularly disgruntled student. When told that her choice of research paper topic did not meet the department guidelines, she responded that I was violating her “right to free speech.” Rather than take her comment personally, as it was given, I maintained professional face and acknowledged her frustration. Immediately after acknowledging her frustration, I offered a redirect technique. I told her that she could in fact speak in class about the topic that interested her, as well as write about it, she just couldn’t submit a research paper on it. I informed her that I was not at liberty to approve her chosen topic or else I would be in willful and knowing violation of my department policy on acceptable research paper topics. So while I wasn’t at liberty to approve her original choice, I would be willing to brainstorm with her to come up with a suitable topic of interest to her and compliant with department guidelines. While her body language and attitude still reeked of indignity, she stopped blurting out how I violated her right to free speech and other confrontational remarks. Somewhat begrudgingly, she chose a new, acceptable topic and we were able to move on with the class. By maintaining professional face, I was able to stay out of the sandbox whilre deflecting and redirecting, as well as offering options, not threats. Verbal Judo comes into play in the classroom on a regular basis.
John Fallon, Professor of English
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