Student Personalities

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At the end of the article are guiding questions for the educator.

Student personalities add an unforeseen dynamic to the classroom that requires a certain finesse to handle properly. The personalities of students are not the same; therefore, it requires an assortment of strategies to manage students effectively.

In essence, this requires the educator to become something more than a provider of information. An educator may have to wear the hats of mentor, role model, disciplinarian, etc… when handling student personalities. Some educators have balked and exclaimed, “That is not my concern!” Well, if someone feels that way then that is unfortunate, because the educator is losing the valuable ability to connect with students to increase learning inside the classroom and help students outside the classroom.

Here is a list of common personalities found in any classroom and the strategies to manage the different personality types.

Shy

Shy students can be great to have from a behavioral standpoint because they rarely cause any problems. Actually, they can easily fall into the educator’s “blind spots” and go unnoticed. That is why it is important to give these students some attention, but be careful not to focus too much on them as this may cause more withdrawal than previously experienced. However, all shy students are not created equally, and handling them requires different strategies.

  • Lack of Confidence: These students may not actually be shy, but their lack of confidence causes them to pull back and become uncomfortable with participating in class.

How to help

    • Give individual attention to the student. Walk by and check their work and give praise for doing well and encouragement when not meeting expectations.
    • Make mental notes about correct answers that have been checked and call on the student for an answer in front of the class, but first make sure to have communicated the answer is correct beforehand. This can help decrease any anxiety the student may have and allow confidence in participating.
    • Be careful not to call on the student too much at first. Gently provide more attention as weeks turn into months. Use the analogy of boiling a frog. If you place a frog in boiling water he will jump out, but if you place him in lukewarm water and gently turn up the heat he will stay.
  • Social Awkwardness: Social aspects may influence a student’s ability to interact in class. There are couple situations where students may be categorized in this way: 1) they are loners without friends for various reasons. 2) they have transferred into the class and are new with no friends.

How to help

    • If the student is a loner then try to talk to him before or during class. Try to build a connection with the student while praising him for his good qualities. Normally, these students may have a negative view of themselves which causes them to be closed off.
    • If the student is a loner, try to pair him with another student who is not as judgmental and works well with everyone.
    • Above all, protect the student and don’t let other students bully or mistreat.
    • If the student has just transferred into class, normally providing group activities where the students inner mingle will solve this problem. This is where seating in groups and group work activities can benefit the student.
    • University and adult students normally fall into the number two category, so the first day of class when students don’t know each other, try ice breaker activities to all everyone a chance to make connections.
  • Naturally Introverted: Naturally introverted students have the personality where they prefer to work by themselves. They are normally soft spoken and are closed in appearance (sitting with shoulders sloped forward, avoiding eye contact, arms folded across the body). These students can seldom come out of their shell as there is no causal factor except inherent personality.

How to help:

    • Provide individual attention and encouragement to the student.
    • Try to build a bridge to communication with the student outside of the lesson by asking a simple question periodically. If they answer, smile and encourage, then let them have space.
    • Do not force a lot of attention onto the student as it will be extremely uncomfortable.
    • Do not get angry for not answering in class. Instead, encourage and comfort, and discuss an agreement that they will participate if a promise is made not to shine too much attention on them.

Shy students are tricky to handle and can take a lot of asserted time and effort to get them active in class. The real keys to all areas of shyness are not to overload the student with attention, gradually focus more attention on them, and provide lots of encouragement. Don’t try to change them overnight, but provide a balanced and appropriate amount of attention to allow them to grow. This can be difficult to gauge, so be vigilant when working with these types of students.

Mischievous

Mischievous students tend to cause problems or disruptions in classroom. They are normally the “fun” students in the classroom, but have to properly managed to ensure they do not become a huge disruption to the class. These students are commonly referred to as class clowns, and if handled properly, can provide a fun element to the class.

  • Attention Seeker: This student likes the attention he receives from making the class laugh. Whether or not it is a substitute for a mother’s lack of affection is not relevant here. Normally these students are very vocal making jokes all the time. Sometimes they may cause havoc with throwing items or something similar, but mostly try to make everyone laugh through language. The key point is they love the attention and in speaking class they can become a lightning rod for interaction.

How to handle

    • Allow them to talk and laugh if they say something funny.
    • Do not tolerate negative talk towards other students or disrespectful language.
    • If they step out of bounds, pull them aside and explain there is a time to have fun and a time to study. To learn those times.
    • Provide classroom rules and consequences so they understand how far they can take their joking.
    • Involve them in class whenever possible as they love the attention (ask them questions, have them demonstrate things, etc…)
  • Bored Mischievous: Some students cause problems because they are bored. The material may be too low or too high for them, so they may resort to playful but more devious behavior.

How to handle

    • If the material is too low, use groups and make them a group leader where they become mini-teachers. This can provide responsibility to the student.
    • If material is too low, provide additional instruction through individual conversation and require them to produce at a higher standard.
    • If the material is too high, use groups and provide a higher level student to help with the material.
    • Set classroom rules and consequences for the student to follow. It is very likely they will test the rules; therefore, they must suffer the consequences when breaking rules.
    • Set down with them outside of class and discuss why some of the problems are happening. Make sure they know you understand them, but they have to maintain a certain level of responsibility in class.

The Boss

The boss student is the student that likes to answer every question and is commonly found in younger learners, but not as much as students get older. However, it does happen with older students from time to time. These are the students that want to answer everything and are too eager to show they know all the answers. They are very happy when allowed to answer, but get very upset or sulk when that opportunity is given to someone else. These students can be so strong that they will defy instructions to show they know the answers such as standing up and writing on the board when asked to sit down or blurting out answers when asked to be quiet.

How to Control

    • First explain about allowing others to answer. Talk to them nicely on eye level and recognize their “great” ability, but others need a chance.
    • Bring them to the front to be a mini-teacher and have them ask other students the answers. If other students do not know, then they can answer.
    • If they blurt out answers then do not acknowledge the answers and accept another student’s answer. Then on eye level, explain how there are classroom rules and he needs to follow the rules and allow other people to answer.
    • When other students answer a question, ask the boss student from time to time if they put the same answer.
    • Do not discourage answering, but have them understand that everyone should be given a free chance.

Unmotivated

These students have no desire to learn or study. This can be a real challenge to handle inside the classroom. Most of the time, the students are unmotivated because they do not see the relevancy of what is being studied, not interested in the topics, or the material is far above their level. Regardless, the educator needs to find some means to motivate these students and have them learn.

  • Unmotivated Relevancy:
    • The educator needs to make the student understand how the subject is relative to their lives. For example, for a Japanese student studying English, the educator can talk about how English will allow him to travel the world, how it will enable him to potentially acquire better jobs or go to school in other countries.
    • Find out what the student’s aspirations are and connect them with the subject.
    • The subject might not be relevant to his future, but it is relevant to his grades.
  • Unmotivated Topics :
    • Try to provide topics for the class that match the student level and interest.
    • Try to incorporate interesting activities to allow the students to engage the information.
    • Use grades or other consequences as motivational tools for not doing work.
  • Unmotivated Level:
    • Try to provide individual assistance or peer assistance to help with learning.
    • Be vigilant of progress the student makes and provide encouragement.
    • Talk to the student about not penalizing his grades if he shows more motivation to study and do his work


Final Thoughts

There are so many student personalities in class that it would be impossible to give everyone the individual attention they need. However, this does not mean the educator cannot take special interests in certain students who could benefit from being a bit more centered. The key ingredients with helping balance all personality types is encouragement, understanding, and a structure of rules. Once these things are in place, it is just managing certain aspects of the students to help them overcome certain problems. This may not be in the educator’s job description, but it is a characteristic every great educator possesses.

Questions to Think About to Help Teaching

  1. What strategies do you use to handle the different personalities in the classroom?
  2. What are your best strategies for handling different student personalities?
  3. Does your classroom structure or rules have an effect on student personalities?
  4. Does your personality effect your students’ personalities?