Somebody's Unplugging My Computer

Yesterday, for the third day in a row, I sat down at my computer during third period to find somebody had pulled its plug out of the socket.

The first two days it happened, I chalked it up to an accident. The outlet is in sort of an awkward place, and it's possible that a student may have bumped into the cord or moved a chair into it to knock it out of place.

Noticing this problem, on Thursday I rearranged my desk so that the outlet would be completely covered with no possibility of students accidentally knocking the cord out of the outlet. But when I sat down to my computer on Friday, I found that it had happened again.

I cannot express in words how frustrating this is. If I had a pillow in the classroom, I may have made a display of punching it a bunch of times to show students how angry I was about the situation.

When my computer is turned off, I lose my attendance, it takes me at least three minutes to boot it back up - which is incredibly annoying when I need to find something quick to help a student with - and there's a possibility that documents I'd been working on are lost. And let's not forget possible damage to the computer.

Rather than punch a pillow. I stared at the wall for about three minutes taking deep breaths. What should I do about this?

My gut reaction is to yell at students. I interpret this behavior as malicious. If it is, though, yelling is probably the worst thing I could do since it's probably what the guilty party is hoping for - some evidence that my emotions have been triggered.

After calming down, I began to think about whether a student might fully understand how I interpret this behavior. I suppose there's a possibility that whoever is doing this might think it's just a little game. It wouldn't be the first time I've had a student do something incredibly obnoxious and consider it playful. Freshman aren't exactly experts at considering how their behaviors affect others.

So - how do I address this issue if my goals are a) for this to stop happening, and b) for the offending student to be more conscientious of the way their behaviors affect others. This definitely has the potential to be a learning opportunity. And it certainly hasn't been the first time this year I've had to deal with something like this.

I figure there are two ways of going about this:

1) I could not say anything to students and try to catch the offender in the act. I could then write a referral on the student and let the principal deal with him or her.


2) I could talk about this issue with the whole class. I could explain how this behavior is affecting me and how I interpret it. I could let students know that if this action is happening as a result of resentment toward me, then I would prefer a face-to-face discussion about why and how I'm causing that resentment so we can stop it. I could explain how stopping me from doing my work hurts other students who need help in class. I could then ask students to "police" themselves, which might (hopefully) lead to concerned students confronting the student who's doing this and pressuring him or her to stop.

I think option two will be my approach.

It's often frustrating that I have to spend serious time thinking about how to handle issues like this. I sometimes think my time would be better used in conferences with students, thinking about curriculum, or planning with colleagues. On the other hand, maybe handling these concerns the right way is just as important a part of students' education as the explicit curriculum. And, hopefully, the sense of community that is preserved by avoiding the yelling and pillow punching will serve to cultivate a more positive and effective learning environment in the future.

What do you think? What should I do?


  1. Maybe this is just because of the week I've had, but my instinct is not to go the touchy-feely route. They may be freshmen, but they're not stupid. Three days in a row is someone trying to piss you off. I would tell them "knock it off, quit behaving like an idiot, or you'll get a referral." You could even tell them that it could mess up their grades or attendance or whatever, but I honestly would just draw a line in the sand and let that be the end of it.

    But again, I've had a shitty week.

  2. I would write a note on a piece of paper and tape it to the plug/cord close enough to the wall where they could see. I would write "I'm on to you" with a smiley face. Just enough to mess with them. Make them think you know who they are. Make them fear the repercussions just a bit. Then you don't waste even more class time. Perhaps once it stops, you do talk about how to approach issues with "teachers" in general. Realistically, kids don't usually know how to handle problems with adults or superiors. I've had to explain to my kids in the past when they were complaining to me about another teacher that the best thing to do was write a note to make an appointment and go talk to them. It is a bit of a lesson to learn.

  3. I do like option #2 but I do agree that it would take away valuable teaching time. However, I do agree with Kathryn's point how kids don't know how to handle problems with adults and learn to advocate for themselves. Kids need to learn how to talk to adults in a healthy manner what is troubling them.

  4. Option 2. It teaches them something. Not wasted time at all. And it's honest. And it's a good example.

    There is no other option.

  5. I would option #2. You'll be teaching all of your students how to resolve conflicts such as these, that you're a human being, and what a functional teacher-student relationship looks like. If it keeps happening after that I like what Kathryn Jasper Mar suggests.

    Hope you're doing well!

  6. I would get an inexpensive UPS so that when the student unplugs the UPS the computer stays up and an alarm goes off. There's a possibility that the student will recognize that it's a different plug and figure out that he can unplug the computer from the GPS, but... it's a start.


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