You know the type. One who lectures everyone, disapproves of questions if they don't fit in his (very narrow) definition of the subject discussed, be it history, YA novels, cinematography, cartoons or anything else, really. Let's call him Malvolio.

To give one example, Malvolio considers any criticism of an author or artist reprimandable, which really kills any discussion.

Ours is a volunteer organisation, each of us volunteer the hours we can and we give lectures on various subjects. Our audience consists mostly of 11-17 year olds.

I myself lately am quite busy and able to drop in only once in a fortnight or even just once a month, while Malvolio helps out much more frequently, at least twice a week. It is very commendable and he means well, but, problem is, he scares away the kids. He reprimands them, makes them feel ignorant. The kids complain to us, other tutors about this behaviour, and that his lectures are dry and uninteresting then ask questions such as "'Who will be here tomorrow in our group? If it's Mr. Malvolio, we prefer not to come."

On coffee breaks with us (there are usually 4-5 volunteers present as the kids are divided by age groups) he recommends that we should be more strict, as "These kids need to be taught discipline and manners."

Should we, other tutors do something about this? If yes, what exactly? Talk to him? I'd really hate to complain to the manager lady, Malvolio does so much more than most of us who have full time jobs.

I am Israeli, the kids in question are from different backgrounds: from Ethiopia, Russia, Middle East and so on. The kids are mainly from 'problematic families' and the goal is to keep them off the streets. Teaching them something is an added benefit. Some prefer to play football outside, which is also (mostly) okay with the manager as long as they stay with us and don't leave. The lecture subjects have to be approved by the manager, who is also present at the first lecture of new volunteers, but otherwise she's quite busy organizing (food delivery, schedules, collecting donations and so on). The lectures take place in Israel.

  • 2
    Malvolio indeed! Sep 24, 2017 at 15:05
  • 2
    I'm assuming the goal here is to educate the kids or something? Because if the kids are stating they'd rather not show up when he comes, he seems to be a net-negative benefit to the organisation.
    – Erik
    Sep 24, 2017 at 15:34
  • 1
    Don't you (volunteers / organization) have a policy? Some kind of "book of rules" that helps volunteers organize their work? Any pre-defined guidelines?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24, 2017 at 16:53
  • 1
    I understand, but having a support could help with holding such a "problematic" attitude: you can make a 1st move "by the book" then see what follows? Is that a possible workaround worth an answer?
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24, 2017 at 17:14
  • 1
    Lost is Space is not as interesting as Star Trek, but without Jonathan Harris it would be even less interesting. As an adult recalling teachers from childhood, for the most part the peculiar teachers right and wrong, seem more informative now than the more common teachers. Perhaps Malvolio makes the rest of you look better, a sort of institutional wingman.
    – agc
    Sep 30, 2017 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


I'm teaching to (roughly) 15 to 25 years old persons, so it's based on my experience that a teacher should always think of and do what's best for the student.

Having said that, and as you have a policy and some guidelines in your organization, I would use them in order to not put the blame on anyone, at least at the beginning, and only if needed, and that will be the manager's duty, not yours.

I would ask your manager if you guys can all have a meeting, where you all together can talk about ideas and tips that can improve the work and the relationship with the kids. Everyone will have a chance to share their thoughts and will.

Important: it has to be a meeting for the kids' sake, not to blame anyone.

From that, you can set a few guidelines: which books, schedule, activities, how-to's... and so on. All the good stuff that has to be done for the kids: what they like and what they don't. You'll all have to agree to some kind of improvements. Maybe your can just talk about being nice and helpful, and someone gets the hint. Then, it might be easier to share between all volunteers, and see if someone steps out of bonds.

Someone (manager) needs also to have fair reports, and have some checking once in a while.

This is how I always have organized my teams (when I had one), and it worked well, bad mind / behavior would always, either improve, or step aside by himself rather quickly, as they will feel like not part of that team, because they wondered why they were so different from other colleagues or why kids did not appreciate them as much as others...

  • 1
    There's some great advice here, but this answer is missing an explanation of why the advice will work.If you have an interpersonal question, the why is going to be what you learn from. The what only tells you how to act in a specific situation, the why is where you learn how to interact with humans in general.
    – user288
    Sep 24, 2017 at 17:54
  • 2
    @Hamlet : please feel free to let me know how can a why it works be included here? That'll help me improve. As for now, I can't see any reason why it would work for sure, as it's about interpersonal interaction, and no one knows if the bad guy will change his behavior. It always worked for me, and that's why I give this tip to OP, I want to help, that doesn't mean I hold the truth :)
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24, 2017 at 18:05
  • @OldPadawan that's actually some pretty good advice. I'll share it with the other instructors, if they'll like it, then we'll go to the manager and ask her for a meeting.
    – user1617
    Sep 24, 2017 at 18:12
  • Hope it works for the kids and you :) if you have your fellow colleagues support, hopefully, things will change and improve.
    – OldPadawan
    Sep 24, 2017 at 18:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.