Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Typically students

I'm not long enough in my teaching career to be jaded, but several weeks into my second semester teaching at Texas State University-San Marcos, I've realized that there truly are typical students. I don't mean that all the students are the same, but that most students can fit into one of several categories.

The Inquisitor -- These are the students that ask the questions that you don't want to hear, as they have nothing to do with the actual lecture. Stuff like, "are we having a quiz today?". They also are the ones who beg for you to let the class out early or to give attendance points that day. Two things about them -- one, they are always in class and are usually prepared for the pop quiz, so what does it matter, and two, as a teacher you don't let the students out early so why does the Inquisitor think you'll start? Inquistors can be males or females and generally do well in class. But they do try to see how they can work the angles.

The Eager Beaver -- I have to admit, I have a tendency to fall into this category myself. These are students too eager to participate in class and willing to answer the teacher's questions. As a teacher, you have to be careful that the eager beaver doesn't hog all the class time and/or doesn't hijack the class to take it in the direction he/she wants. As a student, I've learned to scale back on this a bit.

Still Waters Run Deep -- These are students who truly take in everything you say, but hardly contribute to class. Yet, if they feel you are approachable, they will talk with you outside the class or send emails, asking a lot of questions on the course topic. Mainly these students suffer a bit of communication apprehension about speaking up in class. In many ways I find these students the most rewarding, as they show insight and you know that not only are you reaching them, they are thinking about the class after they walk out of the lecture hall.

Zombies -- The vast majority of students in larger-sized classes. They come, maybe they take notes, maybe they don't, maybe they nod their head if you are lucky, but they don't answer or ask questions. Sometimes you really wonder if you are reaching them. They go under the idea that if they don't make waves, they won't be noticed. Maybe this is true, as many times in larger classes you won't learn their names.

World Dominators -- Eager beavers with more than a streak of aggression. They thrive knowing that they have the top scores in the class or did the best on group projects. I'm not sure if Dominators are all that common with the millenniums (students in the 18-22 year old range), but it is still common with the Gen X'ers. I speak from experience (on a personal note: don't ever compete with my grad school group because we WILL decimate you!).

Little Darlings -- I call them this because I have the feeling they were mamma's little darlings growing up. These are the students who send you an email saying they over slept, but want to know what you covered in class that day. I actually had one walk in at the end of class the other day wanting to know what they missed. Yeah, right, get a clue. These are also the students who will use the class intranet site sending an email to the entire class begging for notes or a study partner without realizing that the teacher sees those as well.

The Invisibles -- As the name implies, these are students who you never see, usually because they are never there. You will see them on test day and will need an ID to verify they are enrolled in your class. Of course, they wonder why they don't do well in class, but they are never there to ask you why.

This is just a sampling of what I've seen in my classes. Of course some of these students you reach, and some of them you don't. There is a deep satisfaction when at the end of the semester, a student says they really enjoyed your class or has decided to make your subject their career. To me, that's what it's all about.

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