High school is a challenging yet core part of every student’s growth. It is the period of learning, adapting, strategising for the future, and developing behavioral skills. For Malaysians, the crescendo of high school comes in the form of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). The pressure of these final exams along with social norms that shape a young adult can bring out a variety of individual characters.
Each student is unique and brings a measure of color and creativity to the classroom atmosphere. All are special in their own way and should be appreciated for their talent and individual personality traits. That said, teachers may find it challenging to handle the variety of character types a class may offer.
No worries! We’ve summarised 5 student character types you’ll find in every classroom and how teachers bring out the best in them.
1. The Outspoken One
The first on the list is the Outspoken one. He or she is often the one who tends to stand out the most and is instantly recognisable. Character traits of the outspoken student include a flair for the conversing and fiery courage to say what he or she wants. Outspoken students can often be seen with a group of friends as they enjoy socialising.
Teachers can take advantage of the outspoken one’s keen discourse to better understand the student’s peers and their needs in the classroom. Often the student will be quick to respond to a teacher’s prompting. When preparing for SPM, a teacher should encourage an outspoken student to paraphrase or summarise what he or she has learned for the class to better understand the topic. This way, he can also be the voice of the class.
Due to their expressive nature, outspoken students have high potential to become leaders. They are often easy to work with and make great team players too!
As students get older, they become more serious and tend to have more respect for the syllabus taught to them. There is a general inclination to transition into the studious type. But every now and then, there will be one or two students who are extra studious.
Let’s be honest, teachers tend to favor students who are bookworms as well as those who are more interested in scoring good grades. It’s no surprise as studious individuals can set the benchmark for other students to follow.
In high school however, teachers must remember the facets of school that shape a student’s character. Teachers can further encourage the brainy students to take a holistic approach on schooling life. Push them to pursue extra-curricular activities such as sports and other clubs in school or college that build people skills and make them street-smart. This will help tremendously in their transition into college after SPM or IGCSE exams and further into adulthood.
3. The Rebel
Time for some tough love. The “Rebel” is a stage we all went through – whether at home or at school or both. It is a perfectly normal phase of teenage life when a child starts to think on his own and make informed decisions based on his understanding. Often, it may seem that most of what others say is wrong to them.
While the term “Rebel” may sound like a negative connotation, in the working world it is a valued trait. Being a “Rebel” means taking a stand for what you believe in – which may differ from the status quo. The change of mindset can be a powerful disruptor to bring about the progress we need.
Teachers will encounter students who portray ‘rebellious’ characteristics. But it is important teachers do not fight fire with fire. Instead, use the defusal method to calm the student. Become his or her ally first before proving your point. Try talking to him or her again when they have calmed down. Remember, it’s okay if he or she doesn’t agree with you. Encourage them to see all sides of the equation and test everything with facts, logic, and experience. Inspire students to stand for what they believe in.
4. The Quiet One
Some students are particularly quiet. This may just be a phase or turn out to be a personality trait. Much like the Outspoken one, the Quiet one is easily noticed. Often, a teacher may find it tough to prompt a response from said student.
Pro tip: Some students are more open to talk on a personal level rather than in a classroom setting.
One method teachers can employ is to maintain personal contact with the student but keep a safe distance so as not to intrude his/her space. Occasionally, prompt the student to answer questions. Give him/her positive feedback on good behavioral traits. For example, working on a new Add Maths problem without the help of the teacher in the class deserves a praise.
Teachers must be present in the moment and constantly aware of the student’s background. Some unusually quiet students may have been victims of abuse or traumatic experiences. Others may feel extraordinary pressure during the exam season. Create a safe space for the student to share his/her feelings. You could further engage external help or plug in to resources such as The Risers at Taylors College to access creative ways to help students through this challenging period.
5. The Leader
The culmination of many positive traits in a student usually creates a leader. Every classroom will have at least one student who takes on the role of Leader. The Leader is one who takes initiative and has a strong sense of confidence when making decisions. In some cases, a high school class may have more than one Leader figure. Teachers could use this scenario to better manage the classroom.
Leaders have an innate tendency to bring others together and drive action. This can be a great help to teachers. Imagine giving a whole lot of homework to complaining students and the leader starts to give them tips on how they can manage their homework easily. All the teacher needs to do is sit back and let the leader talk.
Another way leaders can help teachers is by getting the consensus of the classroom (voice of the students). Leaders also act as teacher’s assistant when he/she is absent.
They can take attendance, steer the students away from bad behavior such as “ponteng school” (absenteeism) or making excessive noise while the lesson is ongoing. Ultimately, teachers should encourage potential leaders or students who want to be a key figure in the classroom. Give them roles to fill and responsibilities to carry out for a start.
These 5 characteristics of students are not a conclusive list to generalise high school students in Malaysia. Teachers will encounter as many types of students as there are personality types. Yet, as educators, teachers play an important role to understand, relate, empathise, and encourage their teenage students. Nurture your students and create an environment conducive for learning and growing. We hope this article will help new and aspiring teachers to understand some ways to handle their teenage students.
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