The jungle in the classroom

Diversity in social traits is a common characteristic of today’s classroom. As challenging as this array of personalities in the classroom can be, it is also what keeps the profession sensational. If all students were the same,teaching would be an intolerably mind-numbing job.

Diversity in social traits is a common characteristic of today’s classroom. As challenging as this array of personalities in the classroom can be, it is also what keeps the profession sensational. If all students were the same,teaching would be an intolerably mind-numbing job.

Every class has a self-proclaimed bully – an exceedingly insecure student who preys on weaker ones. They are motivated by a rare quality of self-importance arising from abusive childhood or personality disorder. Their favourite victims are the clueless students who do not understand social cues or sarcasm.


Whether done physically, verbally, or through the cyber, it is an evil that teachers should neither condone nor overlook because most students will not stand up for those being dragooned for fear of repercussions.


The class clown or the entertainer is another interesting personality. These students love the attention and make it their primary goal to get laughs. Every classroom has one or several students who believe it is their sole mandate to keep the remainder of the class entertained. This often gets these students into trouble, especially when they overdo it.


Then there are those I will delicately call Smart Aleck or the Know-It-All. This student constantly has his or her hand up for everything – whether it is to share a personal experience that may be completely off-topic or to answer a question or to refute what the teacher has to say. This student’s avid participation in the class does not necessarily reflect his or her grade. Sometimes they are extremely sarcastic, argumentative, and confrontational.

They question or comment on everything that anyone including the teacher says. They are often sharp witted and are able to respond quickly to any situation. They have a unique ability to get under a teacher’s skin and enjoy doing just that.

The socialite is a very interesting kind. They can talk to a wall if they thought it would talk back. They always have something to say and find it difficult to go even a few minutes without talking. They love classroom discussions and are the first to raise their hands when the teacher asks a question. Should you give room for detour, they will assume the platform and lead the discussion mushily as though their lives depend on it. There is no limit to their discussion of any topic. They are experts at everything and love to hear their own voice.

Closely related is the drama queen/king. They love to create drama without being at the centre of the situation. They look for little pieces of information that they can use to turn one student against another. These students are master manipulators even changing up the story to ensure that there is drama. They understand what buttons to push and are excellent at doing that.

The Quiet as a Mouse category, on the other hand, are often shy and/or withdrawn. They only have a few friends and those friends are also typically quiet. They are never in trouble, but they rarely participate in classroom discussions. They avoid conflict and stay clear of drama. It can be extremely difficult for a teacher to gauge how well these students are learning. They may not be the most popular students, but no one has anything unpleasant to say about them.

The Drifter is never there with you. This student must have had a really late night or is just plain tired. He or she tries to stay awake in class to no avail. Every few minutes or so, you see his eyes start to close and their head start to fall. Funnily they always startle sharply as though being chased by a ghost through a cemetery. The process just continues on and on until his or her saviour arrives – the bell/the end of class. Even worse is the Subtle Sleeper who sits right in front of the teacher. These students can position themselves in such a way that they’re napping and the teacher/professor has almost no idea. Now, these students usually don’t mean to drift during class, but they can’t do anything to help it.

The Day Dreamer is another lost cause. This student is one who is not paying attention in class for whatever reason and just zones out. This could be a little embarrassing because when a teacher calls on this student, he or she sometimes has absolutely no idea what is going on and is caught in the act.

The natural leader is the one everyone looks up to. They are tremendously enthusiastic, well liked, and well-rounded individuals. They often do not even realise that other people look up to them. Natural leaders often lead by example, but have the unique ability to get people to listen to them when they do speak.

Then there are the organised type. These students are almost always prepared for class. They seldom forget to complete homework and bring what they need to class. Their locker or desk is exceptionally neat and orderly. They are always on time and ready to learn when class begins. They do not forget deadlines, and are adept at staying on tasks as well as managing their time.

While the organised type could easily be the teacher’s pet, the disorganised type genuinely frustrates a teacher. They continuously forget to take homework or important notes home. Their locker or desk is chaotic. They often turn in crumpled papers due to being crammed inside a locker, back pack, or book. They are often late to class/school and are terrible at managing their time.

The motivated student is often extremely hard working with specific goals to achieve. They may or may not be naturally smart, but they can typically overcome any learning issue through hard work. Teachers love to have motivated students because they are eager to learn, ask questions, and do anything to reach their goals.

The bottom line is: it is a jungle in there! The role of the teacher is therefore to create an environment where every student feels comfortable to learn despite the assortment of personalities.

The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa

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