Since the beginning of teachers in classes, there have been certain types of students. As reliably as the sun will rise, you will have kids in your class that are always running late, or “forgetting” homework, or doing who-knows-what as soon as your back is turned. Here is a list of some of the more common ones, and how to do your best to make sure you’re classroom stays in order.
In my experience, there’s always the kid that waits until the last minute. Either for a big project at home, an in-class assignment, or even a test, this individual will chat, or stare into space, or do anything else other than the work. Sometimes, it’s because they’re smart enough to do it all quickly at the end, but they may distract students that need more time.
A good solution to keeping class on track is to entice them with a reason to finish. After they’re done with the test, hand out a cross-word puzzle, game, or sweet. It also helps to sit down with him/her and talk them through some questions. Once they’ve started, it might be easier for them to finish. Smaller deadlines might also help to pace them, but at the end of the day stricter rules for late work might be the only way to promote on-time behavior.
The Class Clown
Obviously the most infamous type of student, my personal clown’s name was Ben. He would speak in Korean when he wasn’t supposed to (usually to make fun of me), fill out answers with silly words or phrases he had picked up from somewhere (definitely not in my class), and literally run around the classroom wreaking havoc.
You know how students think teacher’s have eyes in the back of their heads? I got so good at knowing his patterns and impulses that I could say, “Ben, stop that,” or “Ben get back in your seat,” without turning around. Needless to say, that blew his mind. I also picked up enough Korean to intimidate him. Eventually, I realized he was acting this way because he was quicker to pick up on other things than the other students—he was actually just bored! It wasn’t long before I was writing puzzles on the board while the other kids worked, asked him more difficult questions about the material, and allowed to him to help write on the board often.
Other students might simply just have a sense of humor. But if my adventure with Ben teaches any lesson at all, it’s to embrace the excess energy and use it as best you can.
The Studious One
Some students act out because they’re not being challenged, while others seek out their challenges. Many students crave recognition, are genuinely interested in the material, and attack lessons and homework with a fervor. In some ways, these students might be harder to control than even the class clown. How do you praise a student, push his/her knowledge, but still cater to the rest of the class? When you have to go over the answers to a test where they completed every question perfectly, how do you keep them from feeling ignored or bored?
It’s important to give praise to the student that deserves it, while also generating a feeling of community in the classroom. Many times, I would ask that student to help with the answers to a student who was struggling, or have him/her read out loud to the class. Small, creative gestures add up to make sure the student is rewarded for their hard work without feeling like the rest of class is slowing them down.
The Sleepy Kid
Kids all over the world have hobbies and schedules that keep them busy. However some cultures, parents, or even the kids themselves (see above) can put well-being last on the list. One student in my class couldn’t keep his head up. Even when the principal got involved, his motivation was extremely low and it was clear that he wasn’t learning anything. I’d always catch him with eyes half-closed and it was aggravating for everyone. Finally, I learned from his parents that he went to school at 7am, went right to piano lessons, then to Japanese lessons, then Tae Kwon Do, and then to my class which ended at 9:30pm. And that was just one day of his very busy weekly schedule.
Unfortunately, being a teacher of one class for so short a period cannot fix the root of the problem. But by allowing him to bring assignments home to finish, or providing extra homework for him to do in his spare time, I could at least help him pass tests and quizzes. And—as in my case—understanding the problem allowed me to stop punishing him for something he couldn’t help, and view the problem with empathy and a greater sense of understanding.
And that’s the case with all the students you’ll come across in your classroom. What might come off as boredom, or mean-spiritedness, or a lack of motivation in your students could really be a deeper problem. There’s no one right way to teach—and no perfect way to connect to a student—but learning about their struggles, inclinations, and motivators can help a teacher to understand their classroom and maximize the impact of each and every lesson for each individual student.
Words by Brianna Stempson. Images from Pixabay.