The teacher needs to be constantly aware of student body language. Students will give a clue as to their intentions with subtle movement clues and micro-expressions. These are often quick and captured only subconsciously. They show up only as feelings or premonitions to our conscious minds, so be aware when something just doesn’t feel right. Listen to your hunches. They can be signals that your subconscious mind trying to tell you more about a situation.
An instance of this happened after a recent lesson. A male student asked, “How do you say ‘She wants’?” He was trying a bit too hard to seem nonchalant about it. “Wants” is a word we are working on, and “she wants” is in the story, so his request was calculated to seem justifiable. I felt something was up, so to buy time and to get more body language clues I asked him what he thought it might be—it is never a bad a idea to use Socratic questioning and lead students into coming up with the answer they seek and I use this technique often, so my response did not seem out of place.
He gave the right answer and then asked, “How do you say ‘D’?” Now I was almost sure that he was playing me, but I wanted to be sure of my hunch, so buying more time, I said, ”Like the girl’s name Dee?” He said, “No, the letter d in Spanish.” Then I was 90% sure that he was attempting to string together an unflattering statement about a female classmate (If you cannot imagine what the student was attempting to say look up “she wants the d” in an urban dictionary). So I said, “We are not doing the alphabet right now and you do not need to know that” in a flat tone. The tone and the blank look on my face communicated to him that I knew what he was intending to do and that it was definitely not OK. And he knew that I knew. He got my unspoken message back to him. His body language clearly showed that he had understood the message and he backed down immediately, not trying to salvage his nefarious operation by protesting or justifying his seemingly innocent question the way a student that is not reading you clearly will try to do.
This entire incident happened in less than five seconds. Awareness of the potential for mischief can head off problems before they even begin. Because I was listening to my intuition, I became aware of the potential for a disciplinary situation was avoided. A female student was spared a derogatory, sexualized remark, a group of smirking male onlookers were spared having my image of them tarnished, and the potential perpetrator was spared the misfortune of disciplinary action. I believe that the student realizes that I am on to him and that he will not attempt that particular line of questioning again.