Today I came face to face with a very angry student. Had others not been in the room, I am certain there would have been a scene. This student has always been somewhat strange, although he has never shown traces of violence or contempt as I saw today before. He was in my summer session Writing 1 class, and decided he might as well be in my Writing 2 class, particularly because he did quite well. He is an intelligent fellow, if a bit odd and eccentric, though he has a hard time sitting through a class without jumping up and leaving at least once or twice each day and not coming back for a while. He is part of the reason that that summer session was difficult to deal with for that very reason, and I have spoken to him about it.
But this semester, the problem has increased.
Early on in the semester, he expressed an interest in exploring the psychological effect of slavery on the slave (he would have rather focused on the master, but there isn't a lot written about that, which makes it a poor topic for a research project). I told him, as I told the rest of the class, that he needed to focus on a particular kind of slavery in a particular country and industry with ties to the U.S. . He didn't focus. When the peer review group and I told him he needed to do that back at paper 2, he ignored it, and failed the paper. Now we are at paper 4, a causal argument about the problem, and all this while, he has still refused to focus. We are now at an impasse. I have some suggestions, but I don't think he will be very amenable to them. He will still need to rewrite the definition completely, and begin researching a topic he has not looked at before quite late in the semester. I frankly don't think it is possible to pull off. I suppose I could have said something to him a few weeks ago, to make sure he was working on something, but I didn't. I figured he would have learned something from the experience with the second paper, but apparently not. Now I don't see how I will avoid having to deal with the scene when it inevitably comes.