Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How can I be a better teacher to these kinds of students?
August 1, 2011 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Were you one of these archetypal students? How did your teachers help you self regulate, control impulses, and overall become more self-aware?

I am about to embark on student teaching and I am currently placed in a few different classrooms for "immersion" teaching so I can get my feet wet. Thus far I've worked only in kindergarten and third grade classrooms and I love them, but I'm having a hard time conceiving of ways to work with certain types of student behavior, especially at the younger end of elementary school. Rather than pre-suppose some kind of answer based on some of the theoretical hoity-toity stuff I'm learning, I'd love to hear from anyone who self-identifies with these characteristics in regards to what helped you become your best self.

If you were the class know-it-all, how did your teachers help you realize that being a swot wasn't attractive? Did your teachers ever redirect your contributions, or ask you to just stop participating in class? At what age did your know-it-all tendencies curb themselves?

If you were the tattle-tale, in what ways did your teacher help you mind your own business? What motivated you to tattle in the first place?

If you majorly struggled to sit still, stay on task, and follow directions (beyond the usual little kid squirrellyness but stopping short of needing ADHD meds), do you think you had a different learning style or other needs that your teacher wasn't meeting? What kind of classroom environment do you think would have helped you channel your energy into rewarding learning?

If you were painfully shy, even to the point of being nonverbal, did you resent teachers who asked you to participate (ie through "cold calling"), or did you have one teacher whose classroom environment or teaching style helped you feel comfortable enough to participate in class discussions? What are some things that a teacher could do to help a student such as yourself get the most out of their classroom experience AND learn important presentation and discussion skills?

Obviously, I'm employing a little stereotyping myself to define these classroom archetypes as I've encountered them, but I want to understand the motivations of each of these students so I can be a better teacher and foster a classroom environment that works for as many people as possible. I know I was the know it all (still am -- sigh) and I cannot for the life of me think of how I would have wanted someone to help me curb that behavior, but man, I really wish someone had. Ultimately I don't view any of these things as problems -- just things I'm looking into because so much of being a teacher is about getting to know your students, and maybe your answers will help guide any questions I ask of my students to better understand their needs.
posted by These Birds of a Feather to Education (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was a shy kid and teach shy kids now. Please don't do equity sticks or random calling before you've established a classroom community of respect and you've built a relationship with your students. If I trusted the teacher to not make a fool of me and accept even wrong answers by desculating the emotional risk I was taking, I would go ahead. But I sometimes was so anxious that I couldn't even get the words out...and I KNEW the answer.

It also is a risk for students who are "smart" and always know the answers, because if you ask the ONE question they don't know, they lose that reputation for being smart. I saw a UK documentary where the "smart" kids actually were so frustrated with equity sticks that they stole theirs so they wouldn't be called on in class. They wanted to participate in their own terms and not the teacher's.

Feel free to memail me during your student teaching if you have issues and you aren't getting the support at your school site. I'm secondary, but I'm happy to listen.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:15 PM on August 1, 2011


I was so shy and afraid of being called on and having to share my answers with the class that I became an impish smart aleck to try and cut them off at the pass. I wish I had a teacher who understood that lack of self esteem, not desire to disrupt motivated my behavior.

Having independent work that was challenging kept me interested in school but other kids knowing I was getting more advanced work to do on my own sure didn't help me make friends.
posted by thewestinggame at 7:17 PM on August 1, 2011


The painfully shy kid: if I'm not raising my hand, just leave me the hell alone. Being called on made my heart race and my mind go blank, and the next 10 minutes of class were completely useless to me because I would still be so nervous from being singled out.

Also, for the kids having a lot of trouble understanding what is being taught, specifically in math, make sure they can see what you're writing when explaining. All throughout school this was an issue for me.. When a teacher was going through the math steps on paper, their hand would always be in the way and I would miss a step, and I was too shy to say anything.
posted by Sufi at 7:20 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not sure this fits your question perfectly but I can't resist expounding on my favorite teachers. One of the BEST teachers I had (once in middle school, then again in high school) and one of the VERY few who made this Willfully Underachieving Pouter sit up and do her work was Mr. B. He taught French and Spanish, and had a whole host of offbeat, creative devices like parrots with microphones that you talked into, remote controller helicopters, He built his desk into a castle with turrets that collected assignments for each period. You get the idea. Except this wasn't a Ben Stiller character. This was an aging, solemn, well organized professor-like gentleman who took his job very seriously.

What REALLY worked for me, as simple as it sounds, is that Mr. B (who was not bubbly, outgoing or overtly goofy...though looking back on it, must have had a really great sense of dry humor and creativity) was very strict and went around one-by-one to check homework. If you didn't have the assignment he asked why, in front of everyone. One by one. In hindsight, this not only isn't rocket science but seems like no other teacher did it because Mr. B's class was the ONLY one for which I did homework and believe it or not, I did it on time. It was more than just wanting to avoid being called out, it was about someone giving a 13 year old accountability and make them answer to it. Every day, no compromises.

The other thing he did was old fashioned drilling. We would repeat words together, then go around the room fast and say them one by one. Everyone participated but no one was really the center of attention. We did this incessantly; if you were shy you got over it because it wasn't that big deal to say "voy vas va" as quickly as you could after you heard it 15 times and knew there were 1o more repetitions to come, today. Even more tomorrow, likely. Again...not rocket science. But it worked. Bonus - I didn't fall asleep! (Charming child, ey?)

Sadly enough, Mr. B had a reputation as being a "mean teacher" because he was solemn, disciplined and uncompromising. His fun, quirky innovations were completely scorned by us insecure middle schoolers. Yet not longer afterward I looked back, from the vantage point of college, and realized just what a special man he was and how much effort he put in to his job. I tried to get in touch with him to say thank you, and found out he was sick with cancer. I forgot those lessons of discipline and timeliness, and didn't reach out quickly enough. I will always regret this.

It's true that teachers really do profoundly impact their students lives, and given the care and open-mindedness you already show, I'm sure you're well on your way. Please remember, if it gets hard, that sometimes it takes a few years for your students to appreciate all your hard work. But they will carry the lessons with them forever.
posted by keasby at 7:46 PM on August 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


I was (well, still am) the extremely shy girl who often knew the answers but hated being singled out to speak in front of the whole class. In classes where the teachers would cold call on students, I had a much harder time. Instead of being able to fully take in the class discussion, I had to constantly prepare and rehearse in my mind what I might have to say if called upon. Since that was an enormously demanding task for me, it seriously hindered my ability to actually listen to the discussion or lecture. Teachers think cold calling is good to force shy students out of their shells, but I think it's a harmful practice because it heightens the baseline anxiety of all the shy students in the room, and anxiety is why they can't talk in the first place!

I believe that a good teacher will be able to lead the class in such a way that almost never requires cold calling. To encourage shy students to get the most out of the classroom experience, you can still assign students to give oral presentations (for which they can prepare well in advance) and have students participate in small-group discussions (where even shy students can speak up, because they're not "performing" and being explicitly judged in front of an audience).
posted by datarose at 7:48 PM on August 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's the know-it-all who's always wrong and the one who's right. I honestly don't remember much about primary school outside of the gifted class, so I don't know how obnoxious I was to have in class. But I was super-obnoxious in CCD-- I wanted religion to make sense. Of course, CCD was taught by random volunteer parents thrown in the deep end. They didn't really know what to do with my questions, but they always stalled and said ask the priest when he comes round. If the kid's clever, don't tell them not to be a swot, for god's sake, engage them and try to use them to the benefit of the other students. Postpone the irritating questions, but come back to them when it's not going to derail the class. Suggest the kid research it and report back to the class. If you have to resort to sending the kid to sit in the corner or go to the library to work on their own, send them to do something the other kids think is cool. I built a dumb little quiz game in fourth grade social studies. I learned a bit about circuits, I was completely bored out of my skull and the rest of the class was too busy thinking it was awesome to hassle me about having been sitting in the corner all the time. (And don't forget the kid's in the library. My brother got left in the library a bunch. At that school, you walked through the library to get to lunch. He'd see the kids going to lunch and realize he'd been forgotten again.)
posted by hoyland at 7:50 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was an inveterate doodler, and this shaped a lot of my classroom interactions in my younger years. One particularly elaborate drawing was crumpled up and thrown out by an elementary school teacher of mine, which really cut down on my enthusiasm for the class. Somewhere down the line, some teacher or other realized that that was my way of paying attention, and left me alone. If the kids are giving you correct answers and doing good work, and not disrupting the class, don't be afraid to leave them to to their own devices a bit.

Also, I am quite shy but I did, admittedly much later in life, like when my college professors did the cold-calling thing; if you got something wrong, it wasn't the end of the world, and it also gave those of us non-discussion-hogs a chance to get in our class participation.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:13 PM on August 1, 2011


"If you were the class know-it-all, how did your teachers help you realize that being a swot wasn't attractive?"

?!

Sent me to gifted classes. Skipped me into higher grades. Assigned me independent projects.

(Are you thinking of the "Pick me, teacher, pick me!" sort who really is swotty rather than smart? Hushing that up with independent projects probably isn't a bad idea)

If you are dealing with gifted kids...don't suggest that 'being a swot isn't attractive.' Here and there you will deal with a kid who is smarter than you -- not as knowledgeable, but smarter. Here and there you will make a spelling error on the board, or mispronounce a word, or otherwise make a mistake. I had a crummy teacher in grade three and greatly enjoyed "helping" by pointing out these slips. She was a mean and a bad teacher (cut out art class!); I never would've humiliated her if she wasn't a screw-up, but.

A couple of teachers I had did classroom journal things; you wrote in it for a few minutes every class, and once a week or so you'd hand it in and the teacher would read it and contribute a few lines. AFAIK this was a pretty big thing for some of the shy kids and the shared private words meant those teachers were 'friends' and thus less intimidating. A friendly private talk after class or in the hall can help too.
posted by kmennie at 8:15 PM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


I have been the know-it-all and the shy kid as well, depending on the situation. I really like the description keasby gives -- I knew teachers who used similar techniques.

But hearing about equity sticks...oy. That makes me think that maybe the best general advice is let the know-it-all say their piece and give the answer a lot, especially when no one else wants to. And give some space to the other kids...make sure there are alternate outlets for those quieter kids to speak (and not be spoken over by the know-it-all). It seems like that would give a way to evaluate them, to build their confidence and to give them a 'voice.'

I think this is along the lines of independent projects such, as described by kmennie. It will quiet the know-it-all and give voice to the quieter ones.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2011


Shy student experience: Cold-calling was terrible, as even if I was paying attention I'd have no idea what the teacher just asked. I'd inevitably respond with, "Can you repeat the question?" to the giggles of classmates. I had to do this in college, too. On the other hand, it helped me get over being shy because I learned to be unashamed to ask for clarification, since it happened so often I knew it wasn't because I didn't know the answer or the subject.

The classes that got me out of my shyness shell all had variations of small group assignments or projects that got me to interact with my peers. I'd feel a lot more comfortable talking in front of all of them if I had already gotten to know them better in person - I was less likely to feel like I was being judged, and more likely to feel like I was sharing.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 8:45 PM on August 1, 2011


Those class journals can be be great, but be careful. Make sure kids understand upfront that you're a mandated reporter, so while you will keep what you read in there secret as much as possible, if there's something in there that makes you think that the student or another child is being hurt physically or emotionally, it's your job to report it. :flashes back to reading autobiographical essays:
posted by smirkette at 9:04 PM on August 1, 2011


I have a feeling you'll be hearing from the shy folks but here's my two cents since we're talking about K-3. My shy daughter's kindergarten teacher was a warm, bubbly smiley sort of person. When she opened the door, all the kids would run to her and hug her. My daughter of course would not, and I always appreciated how she never forced anything with her, would smile and say hello and just treated her very nicely and respectfully. Sometimes she would say something playful like, "Do I get a hug today?" but she never made her feel uncomfortable. My daughter LOVED her though you would never know it because she wouldn't actually LOOK at her. My daughter did participate in class and I have the feeling that the teacher never did "cold calling." If anything, for the shy ones, she would find ways to have them involved. One day when my daughter was having a hard day, the teacher said casually, "She got a little teary so I just made her my buddy today--she was in charge of opening and closing the door." Stuff like that that didn't require my daughter to actually talk. My daughter will shyly smile and wave if we see her in the hall.

This year my daughter had a teacher who said that she was also a former shy kid. She was big on teaching "social skills" but it made my daughter really uncomfortable. She always made the children make eye contact with her when they talked, the kids had to "speak up" to be heard. She also made the children come up and either shake hands or say goodbye to her every day. If anything, it put her back in her shell. She said she did raise her hands sometimes but always used, as she says, her teeny voice. I think trying to "cure" the shyness just makes it worse.
posted by hellochula at 9:07 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was shy and nerdy. More on that later.

But first, I want to give you some advice that doesn't really relate to either of those two archetypes: you have no idea what's going on in your classroom socially. You may think you do, and sometimes you may actually know, but sometimes you just don't. I was bullied terribly throughout a lot of elementary school but it was happening on the yard, not in the classroom, and my teachers told my parents that I was reasonably popular. I finally had to start saving mean notes to give to my mom so she'd understand what was actually going on, and at that point the principal got involved. My mom has since become a teacher and has seen this happen time and again. Kids can be better at hiding harassment from authority figures than you think, and victims of bullying will often put up with it for a long time without saying anything, hoping it will stop or someone will notice and put a stop to it. If a parent asks you how their kid is doing socially, give some thought about whether you have solid evidence, and if you don't, say it's hard to say since you don't see what's happening on the yard all the time. Don't just assume that since you like the kid and she's not showing up bruised or weeping after lunch, everything is going fine for her.

Cold-calling is the worst. Don't do it. It's awkward for everyone and kids who aren't paying attention won't pay more attention because they're afraid you'll call on them. Kids who are paying attention will have background processes running about what they might be asked. If you wait long enough, one of them will probably volunteer the answer to get the class moving again.

I know it's tempting to sit the most disruptive kids with the smart, hardworking kids since then you only have one troublemaker per table. Speaking as the girl who always had the naughtiest boy next to her, this is cruel. Those boys stole my things, and they were always doing awful fidgeting and singing weird songs and trying to make me say swears, and I knew why I was always at a table with them and it really felt like I was being punished for being good. I don't know who you should sit them with, but man, let that good kid have a little peace.

This anecdote of mine from another thread is the best, most sensitive way any teacher ever dealt with my particular brand of obnoxious swottiness.
posted by troublesome at 9:26 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


You are talking about really little guys and girls here (K-3) who are learning how to manage their emotions, their behavior and their relationships. All of these are HUGE skills to learn, and school is the primary place this happens. In the old days, it used to be that kindergarten had very little to do with academic learning, and much more to do with learning how to be at school, how to cooperate and get along with others, how to manage frustrations, and play that let you try out a bunch of new skills. We've moved away from this to more of an emphasis on academic skills, which is a shame in a lot of ways.

A lot of the things you've talked about fall under the broad umbrella of executive functions, in cognitive terms, and as a teacher one of the most valuable things you can do is help kids learn these self-regulation skills. How to stop yourself from acting before you think, how to manage big feelings like being anxious or frustrated, how to observe your own behavior so you're doing things in an efficient and planful way, and aren't doing things to bother others. Model the behaviors you do want. Shape the skills that are problematic so they're more adaptive like the others have said above (e.g., sending the kids who answer all the time to mentor others or report back to the class), praise the shy kiddo when they do speak and encourage them to express themselves in other ways (e.g., are their worksheets really great? Tell them!).

Adele Diamond has done some really great work on this, with a curriculum "Tools of the Mind" that focuses on helping kids to develop these skills. You might find some of these techniques will help you working with these "archetypes."
posted by goggie at 9:26 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I'm sorry - my detailed classroom memories don't go all the way back to K-3)

I was (am?) definitely a know-it-all, and it persisted through college, mainly rearing it's head when I was bored stiff and had nothing else to distract myself with. The worst was with the amazingly simple medicine taught in a Wilderness First Responder course ... I KNEW that I was being obnoxious and asking too many questions, but I was sooooo bored. Giving me something else to read/do during class would have been better for everybody.

Remembering back to middle school, I had an amazing Latin teacher who taught me the material needed to place out of an extra year of HS Latin, while teaching the rest of the class middle school Latin. He gave me self-paced/extra assignments, after I'd finished the whole year's worth of translation in the first 6 weeks.

In HS, my favorite physics teacher gave the assignments at the start of class. So, I was able to work independently and finish the HW by the end of the period. I don't remember being particularly obnoxious in this class, but another thing he did with me was to have me grade younger students' papers. I felt useful/valued/important, and he got rid of some of his dirty work. Come to think of it, so did that middle school Latin teacher ... (and neither gave me an answer key)
posted by Metasyntactic at 10:27 PM on August 1, 2011


Ooh. Just remembered one - I was in 3rd grade (maybe 4th) when I eventually figured out that my teachers didn't know everything. I don't think I exactly felt contempt, but it would have been better if the teacher admitted ignorance rather than insisting that her wrong answer was correct. (my dad was teaching me about algebra, and had explained imaginary numbers to me ... I was really excited about this, and told my teacher, who insisted they didn't exist)

A more extreme example happened in high school, when my calculus teacher marked my (correct!) answer as wrong because she didn't understand how I had arrived at it. We were supposed to find the volume of a solid of revolution that was symmetric around 2 axes. I chose a diffent axis than she did, and she couldn't understand why my reasoning was correct. I DID lose all respect for that teacher. Here, I'm not sure what she could have improved upon besides actually being competent.

I can still picture the classroom situations where both of these happened, so yeah, how you handle being wrong will be remembered for a long time.
posted by Metasyntactic at 10:56 PM on August 1, 2011


I am the painfully shy student. Still am. Cold-calling would result in buckets of tears and me hiding under my desk because I got so tired of being bullied constantly about the crying.

What helped (but didn't make the issue go away) is being allowed to go step outside the classroom for a bit and calm myself down. I'd still have to sit near the door and take notes and listen to the lesson, but it was easier for me to do those things away from the snickering and jokes that the teacher never seemed to hear. Also, I had a permanent pass to go to the guidance office if I really started to fall apart. I know that this is super special treatment that might not work in your school, but it helped me at least manage to make it through without failing.

I still never got used to participating in class discussions, even through college and my first graduate degree, so it's not you (so don't think you've failed or anything), it's me.

In the same vein, what also helped is that the teacher would keep me inside during recess and drill me one-on-one in various things. (Such as the times tables, which I still don't know, but then again, it's not you as a teacher that was the problem, it was me.) This way, the teacher knew that I was trying and in some cases, was able to demonstrate that I knew the material, but there was much less pressure. Plus, it got me away from the bullying, which was always worse at recess.

And, like troublesome said, bullies are very good at making sure that what they do is hidden by authority figures.
posted by sperose at 5:18 AM on August 2, 2011


I was a really shy and sensitive child. I went to the nurse's office every single day when I was in first grade. After awhile, the teacher finally called my mom to try and figure out what in the heck was going on. As they talked, the teacher realized that this happened every time she handed back assignments. She decided to try marking all the questions I got right instead of all the questions I got wrong. When she did this, the daily visits to the nurse disappeared. So be prepared to be a bit of a detective and to think outside the box so all of your students can reach their potential.
posted by whatideserve at 5:49 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got told not to tattle by teachers once or twice, so I may have been a tattletail.

Don't do that. From my perspective, there was unfairness or cruelty happening, and it was awful and needed to stop (it was mostly not happening to me.) The teacher called me a tattle in front of the whole class and I'm still angry that she let the popular girls get away with that stuff. I didn't tell the teacher what was happening outside class anymore so from her perspective the problem was fixed, I suppose. But my friends still cried almost every day because of the stuff I tried to point out.

I'm still a knowitall, too. I've never understood why one wouldn't participate in class, because how else do you learn? I love hearing other people's questions too, so a class full of knowitalls is awesome to me. Even as a teacher.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:54 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


but another thing he did with me was to have me grade younger students' papers. I felt useful/valued/important, and he got rid of some of his dirty work. Come to think of it, so did that middle school Latin teacher ... (and neither gave me an answer key)

Don't do this: as I understand (NAL), it's illegal in the US because of FERPA. Not worth the trouble that could result.

And echoing what people have said above, the last thing you want to do is shut down and ignore the kids who are interested in learning! Why on earth would you characterize intelligence and interest as "swottiness?" If anything, I think of a kid like that as extremely *insecure* and in need of a teacher's kindness!

I think it'll help you a lot to stop thinking about kids with such broad stereotypes (the "know-it-all", the "tattletale" or whatever); deal with the kids you have in front of you, not some version of them in your head. Everyone deserves to be treated as an individual.
posted by lysimache at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So much incredible info here!

I used the term "swot" to describe the know-it-all type because that's what I was called. I was the legitimately smart kid in all of my classes who, when called on, had contributions to make that could have been from a kid two grades ahead of me, but I was socially not prepared to skip any grades so I never did. I was told multiple times to dumb down my answers, to use simpler vocabulary, and to not contribute altogether. This only served to make me more hungry for interaction and my learning style dictates that I need to be able to discuss my thoughts about a subject with someone in order to learn. The only person that's ever been able to help me curb my know-it-all-ness is an acquaintance, who, one day, told me that I'm arrogant. I now listen to myself very carefully to amend any arrogant statements before they start, and I try to use more pliant words rather than overly-assertive ones when I'm with company. I was thinking I could model good discussion behavior in a social unit for my class some day so that my students can learn more about how to phrase their suppositions and contributions in polite, gracious ways.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:37 AM on August 2, 2011


To be sure, every child is most certainly an individual. However, certain behavior repeats itself in every classroom. That's not stereotyping to me -- that's empirical fact. I am most interested in learning how to develop a social curriculum that will help my students develop into the best versions of themselves, and some behaviors (tattling, know-it-all-ness, disruptive behavior) do not lend themselves to a positive classroom environment at times.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:39 AM on August 2, 2011


Speaking more to the know-it-all thing...

At the age you're talking, I was light-years ahead -- mostly because I read voraciously. And the teachers were mostly indulgent -- and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am that they were. There were a couple things they said that set limits -- but they never communicated them in a "don't contribute" or "don't be so smart" kind of way. It was more like, "you're right, but you're talking about something the rest of the class hasn't gotten to yet, so we'll have to wait and talk about that later." It was kind of an open secret that I did a lot of reading-ahead, and reading of the encyclopedia, and reading of anything I could get my hands on, so the teachers and the other kids and I just chalked any of this "smart" to "oh, that's something EC just read at home" or whatever, and no one made a big deal of it.

But what I really appreciated was that sometimes I would come to my teachers with an idea for a class project that I'd seen in some magazine or book or something - and once or twice, the teachers found a way to implement my ideas. (For instance: once I'd come in to my teacher all excited about an "invent a new kind of sandwich" contest I'd read about somewhere in Kansas or something, and asked if we could also have a sandwich contest -- and the teacher figured out a way to finagle that into our English class by making it a sandwich-recipe-WRITING contest or something.)

Long story short: my, er, "intellectual eagerness" had some limits on it, but what I felt was that it was on the whole supported, and valued. Telling me not to contribute would have crushed me, and made me squelch that in myself; the gentler approach my teachers took helped me embrace it while channelling it ("okay, yeah, I'm right about this, but that's just not what we're talking about now, that's all. No harm, no foul.") If nothing else, I urge you to do the same.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the cold call is bad, it pretty much screams, "My teacher is calling me out!!!"
One strategy I use to encourage class participation (and to check if they're "getting it") is to use mini whiteboards. Each student gets one and I'll ask a question, they'll write down answers and hold them up to face me, that way everyone gets to participate. I can quickly scan the class to see who gets it and who doesn't, sometimes using this opportunity to call on the more shy students to read their answers aloud - they know I wouldn't make them say the wrong answer, so they feel safer making guesses and I've had positive results with this strategy. Plus, kids totally love writing on the whiteboards too.

One key is to work hard at creating a classroom community to allow students to feel safe, and once they feel safe, they'll open up more and you will be able to help them better. There are tons of activities out there and I've found if I spend some time in September on team building/classroom community/getting to know each other activities, it helps to create a comfortable and peaceful learning environment that runs for the whole year.

Kids stereotype like crazy and they quickly earn reputations among themselves for the "tattletale", "know it all", "crybaby", and other negative behaviors. It sucks, but it's the way it is. And some of this falls into the "student personality" gray area where the classroom teacher can only do so much. Try to steer these students into positive behaviors and don't hold back with parents at conferences, let them know if you see something that might hinder the student's emotional or social development. Talk to the counselors in your building for ideas and strategies for dealing with this as well.

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 10:34 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mini whiteboards are awesome! I sometimes ask students to read other students' answers if his/her is wrong. Or I just ask them to explain their thinking and once each side has a chance to explain, I give an answer that acknowledges the "wrong" one, but emphasises the right.

Also, establishing your classroom community is the single most important thing you will do. Get it wrong and it doesn't matter what else you get right. Get it right and it doesn't matter what else you get wrong.

If you have the time/brain power/will to read two books before starting your teaching, get these two and read them cover to cover:
1. Differentiation Through Personality Types - it's based on Myers Briggs, but it has some absolutely astounding information I've never seen elsewhere. It gives lots of ideas of how to reach certain students, much like what you're looking for.
2. 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action - this book should be on every educator's shelf. It has the most innovative and unique ideas for helping students of all personality types and ability levels succeed. I seriously reach for this book first when I'm stuck and need a new strategy.

They will change your approach to teaching and will help you see underneath the behaviour to the real issues.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:21 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only person that's ever been able to help me curb my know-it-all-ness is an acquaintance, who, one day, told me that I'm arrogant. I now listen to myself very carefully to amend any arrogant statements before they start, and I try to use more pliant words rather than overly-assertive ones when I'm with company.

I think the key to your experience is that it was coming from an acquaintance not an authority figure. Think about how crushed you would have been if a teacher said that to you! Kids who are smart and precocious do need help toning it down and getting along with other kids. Doing it in a negative manner just makes the kid lose respect for the teacher or turn into one of those shy kids you want to cure. Find ways to reinforce positive behavior and support their intelligence, and they'll start to figure out the "swot" behavior on their own. Above all, don't call them out on it in front of the class or even another person. Those kids tend to be just as insecure and needing of attention as the rest of them. It's easy to give kids a complex.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a couple "archetypes" I can shed some light on from my perspective. (And I do have pretty strong memories from ages 5-8, for whatever reason):

The Tattletale: I tattled. I definitely did. And I remember having a couple different reasons for it.

Tattling reason #1: When I tattled that one student was being mean to another, it was because I thought the teacher didn't see what was going on. If a child tells you something like this, PLEASE don't punish them for being a "tattletale." That's how bullying continues. It really upset me when my friends were picked on, and "tattling" was my way of protecting my friends from kids too big or socially scary for me to stand up to on my own.

Tattling reason #2: When I tattled about stupid stuff like "Mrs. C! Billy isn't coloring with the colors you told us too!! ITS NOT ALLOWED!!" it was because seeing Billy use the forb idden colors made me want to break the rules and use those sexy sexy forbidden colors too. At that age self-control is really hard! Tattling was my way of controlling my urges. I was saying outloud that something wasn't allowed, so that I wouldn't break the rules myself.



Disruptive talking:

You didn't specifically ask about this, but as I am STILL sometimes incapable of shutting the fuck up, I might have some helpful insight. I was usually engaged with class, I loved school at that age. My talking might have been tangential, but it was rarely completely unrelated. I talked to process what I was learning. Actually, I still do that. I just know how to only do it when there's no one around now. If you have a kid who cannot. stop. talking. but seems engaged in what's going on in the classroom, do try to be gentle when you tell them to be quiet. I needed to be reminded often that it wasn't "talking time," but teachers who obviously assumed I was being a PITA on purpose because I didn't care what we were learning about PETRIFIED me...and I stopped paying attention in their classes and doodled to keep myself from talking. If I wasn't excited to say something, then I wasn't engaged. I just processed information orally, and at 5 or 6 I hadn't learned how to manage that quirk yet.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 11:52 AM on November 15, 2011


« Older About two days ago my Windows ...   |  is it abusive of my brother-in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.