There are many different types of students in college. As an instructor, you will likely have many wonderful, dedicated, prepared students who will show up on time for class and who will be ready and eager for the day’s lecture. However, you will also have difficult students. At this point in your graduate career, you are probably familiar with many different types of pesky students; without knowing it, you may have even been a pesky student in the past. Below are some common types of students in college, including the pesky ones, and some ways to manage them in classrooms.
Most teachers know this student well: the one who is always first to respond to questions, who always has something to contribute, and (to be quite frank) who will not shut up. One way to handle this student is to share your experience of that student with the student. For example, you could say something to the effect of, “I really appreciate your willingness to share in class, but I wonder if maybe other students would like some space to speak.”
The Know-It-All student is another well-known pesky student. If you don’t already have an idea of what this student is like, then think back on your experiences as a student or instructor. Have you ever been in class with someone who would always ask long complicated questions that weren’t even questions to begin with but that were asked in a way to try to sound smarter than the other students? That is the Know-It-All. One way to address these disruptive students is to have the students clarify if they are asking questions (e.g., they really do not know the answer) or if they are making points of clarification (e.g., they want to see if they truly understand the concept). By having the students distinguish between the two, they will hopefully gain some personal insight and not speak up so much in class.
The “Perfect” Student
This type of pesky student tends to be very well prepared for class and typically performs well on class assignments and tests. However, what makes these students so pesky is that they are often too invested in their educations. These students want to know why they received a 98 on a paper and not a perfect 100. For example, these students may schedule meetings after tests are returned to question every single thing that they got wrong. Do these students sound familiar? They should because many of these students end up pursuing graduate degrees. One way to handle these pesky students is to reassure them that one grade will not impact their overall performance in the class. Also, these students need firm boundaries, so unless you feel it is absolutely warranted, you should not modify grades because of a simple challenge. In the long run, this is what these students need.
Regardless of which of the types of students in college you are dealing with, you should approach the students in a way that is productive to the students’ personal and professional growth. Chances are no one has ever given pesky students feedback about how they present in class. However, you should never call students out in front of the entire class; this only makes pesky students feel bad for something about which they were probably unaware. If it becomes absolutely necessary to speak with pesky students about their behaviors, you should do so one on one. Also, you should remember that you are not alone in dealing with pesky students. The types of students in college vary little from school to school, and your stipend as a GTA only compensates you to deal with so much. If you are struggling with a particular student, you can reach out to your faculty mentor for guidance and support.