The three types of students who scare me – PR or otherwise

I don’t scare easily. I come from a family made up of a lot of current and former military folk — and we are a pretty brazen bunch. Our family motto should probably be:

jpjones“I have not yet begun to fight.”
– Captain John Paul Jones (aboard the Bon Homme Richard)

So, when someone recently asked me if students ever scared me I had to think a bit.

The “Active Shooter” Scary Student

The faculty at the Manship School recently took part in “Active Shooter Training,” which is essentially how we, as faculty, should act if a person with a gun (usually with intent to harm) comes on the LSU campus. During this training the video stated that the profile of a student likely to become an active shooter is one who:

  • Acts depressed or withdrawn;
  • Reacts very negatively to constructive criticism;
  • Violates rules repeatedly;
  • Displays severe mood swings;
  • Displays unstable responses;
  • Displays anger easily;
  • Is narcissistic — thinks everything is about them; and/or
  • Is paranoid — thinks everyone is against them.

For more on active shooters and how to deal with them, refer to this document from the Department of Homeland Security.

I’m not going to lie, a student who acts like this scares me. I’ve seen only a handful of this type of student (knock on wood) in my 10 years of teaching. Despite what you may have heard or read about millennials, most students I have encountered are not entitled, rude or narcissistic. And despite the proliferation of helicopter parenting, a lot of students today accept responsibility for their actions.

Nonetheless, students with “active shooter” potential are ones I am scared will stalk me, put nails in my tires or push me down a flight of stairs if I say “boo” to them — much less criticize them or give them  a failing grade.

The “Amazing” Scary Student

This student is SOOOO Flippin’ good that you have no idea what you can possibly teach them. They defy the Bell Curve. You know not only know they will succeed, but they will exceed your expectations. Give them a task — any task — and they will blow you away with what they accomplish. They may as well have pure caffeine pumping through their veins ’cause they never show signs of stopping.


I have been honored to work with quite a few of these students over the years. They are respectful; they are kind; they are creative; they are strategic; they are organized; they are prepared; they are motivated; they are capable; they are responsible; they are accountable; they are ethical; they are mature. I am honored when they come to me for something because, quite honestly, I sometimes wonder if I have anything to offer them. They are so much further ahead of the game than I was when I was their age.

The “I’m Graduating and I’ve Got Nothing to Show For It” Scary Student

I am actually the most scared of the “I’m Graduating and I’ve Got Nothing to Show For It” student. These students have NOTHING on their resumes despite that it is the last semester of their college careers. They have spent 4, 5, or 6 years in college partying, sleeping and eating. They have not done any internships. They have not taken part in any extracurricular activities. They do not have any professional job experience – they don’t even have the excuse of bartending to pay their way through college. They (sometimes) made it to classes that they passed (just barely). They were just HERE.



I hope these students are either: 1) independently wealthy, or 2) inheriting mommy’s/daddy’s company when they graduate. Otherwise, they are going to join the ranks of the increasing number of students who live at home with their parents. These students scare me because they didn’t take advantage of any MANY opportunities provided to them in college. Overall, I’m not really sure why they bothered to attend college. I’m scared for their futures.

The rest of you students, you don’t scare me (yet).