Monday, September 10, 2012


by Linda Kline
Director of Education

Editor's Note: Because we discuss teaching strategies on this blog, we occasionally address issues of personality. As much as teachers love to revel in the joys of teaching, it comes with its occasional challenges.One of those challenges can be the behavior of the students themselves. Anyone who has taught or taken a class will relate. As a student, you don’t want your day ruined because you had to sit next to someone who couldn't get it together. As a teacher, you don’t want the less-than-stellar behavior of one person getting in the way of other students’ ability to learn.

So what do you do? Sometimes anticipating and preventing disruptive behavior gets the job done. Other times, you may have no choice but to deal with a problem as it arises. Linda’s strategies are below.

The ONE. . .

It seems like there’s at least one in every class - one student whose needs or expectations don’t quite jive with the rest of the crowd. You know the one I mean.

“The ONE,” comes in all shapes, sizes, and different forms of off-balancing quirks. The energy or neediness of that one person can upset the equilibrium of an entire class.

Here are a few eccentricities to watch out for and some strategies for coping,

The Negative One. . . just can’t stop griping.

Everything is the pits! The weather stinks; the lighting is crappy; the room is too hot. She is so accustomed to being miserable, she isn’t aware that she has nothing positive to say -- and we all know the old adage about misery loving company. Negative people do a lot of recruiting to draw others into their way of thinking. Try as you may to assuage them, they are having no part of your sunny disposition.

Best advice for dealing with dealing with Negative Types:
If you are a student, RUN…..Save yourself! Pick up your stuff and move across the room.

If you are the teacher, first be sure that the student doesn’t have a legitimate beef, then accept that you probably won’t be able to make her grey skies sunny. The best strategy for getting everyone successfully through the class? Interrupt and distract. Insert yourself in the conversation and change the subject. Get everyone back on topic and focused on something tangible, a specific skill, the next stage of the project, etc.

The Know It All

This one knows everything. One must wonder why they would enroll for a class because they clearly know more than the instructor. A-Know-It-All’s two favorite words are, “I heard ______________, or “I read ___________, (fill in the blank).” These types try so hard to take charge of the class that they usually miss everything the teacher has been attempting to teach…..and so does everyone who is seated anywhere near them.

Coping with the Know It All:
If you are a student, tell her/him you’d love to hear more, perhaps at lunch or after class. But tell them it’s hard to concentrate on what the teacher is saying while they are talking. If you do meet up with them later, be sure to fact-check what they say. Know It All's are well-intentioned, but quite often they have the details wrong.

If you are the teacher, gain control of your group by kindly asking this person to hold his/her thoughts until you are finished with your presentation and you can address them with the entire group.

Why, Why, Why

This one is most enthusiastic and eager to learn. This type is naturally inquisitive and wants to know more! He just can’t help blurting out questions right in the middle of a demo or presentation which may throw the teacher off topic and upset the flow of the class and presentation.

Coping with the Why, Why, Why Type:
Let’s not quell their inquisitive nature, but rather embrace it. Ask them to make note of the questions and hold them until you’ve finished your presentation. Most likely, you will answer all of their questions in the course of your demo and lecture. And if you don’t, they may provide you with some great follow up points.

Handouts can often be helpful with this type. If they can see where you are headed, they will often hold questions until at least that portion of the presentation.

[Editor’s addition:

The Compulsive Documentarian a/k/a the Person Whose iPad is Always Between You and the Action.. . .

Technology solves many problems, but creates its own set of bad behaviors. One of my personal pet peeves is students filming everything. And I mean everything. There are three problems with this phenomenon. First, many do it without asking the teacher. At the very least, this is seriously rude. Class fees do not necessarily include filming rights. Second, the person behind you can’t see through your iPad. So if you hold it up to film, you should really be at the back of the pack. Finally, I have to wonder how much someone intent on filming is really experiencing and absorbing. Sometimes giving your full attention the first time is the best course.

Dealing with the iPad Crew:
If you are a student and it is causing a problem, politely mentioning it to the offender or the teacher usually gets good results. Teachers, this is one of those things you can address at the outset with an announcement or a request that people be aware of others in the room and/or honor your policies about filming.]

When you think about it, we’ve all been the ONE at one time or another. I’m sure I’ve driven many of my teachers to the brink of the great abyss with my overzealous desire to learn and all of my questions. To those patient souls, I offer a humble apology. It’s true…….What comes around, goes around.

Keep the peace and keep smiling.
Creative Blessings,


Phoenix said...

I really appreciate these ideas and ways to 'manage' the classroom . . . both from the student perspective as well as the teacher perspective.

I've encountered all these scenarios and in a 'school' setting, the balance has been interesting. If I am teaching in my own studio, the boundaries are already clear. If I am teaching in a venue where I could be asked NOT to come back, the way in which "the one" is handled can be tricky :)

Thanks again!

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

That's a good point, Phoenix. How you deal with students can vary dramatically based on where you are - from dealing with difficult students to issues like whether you can give students coupons for your classes or where you refer them to buy supplies.