By Jesse Fletcher
Special to Campus News
I’ve taught at various levels for 15 years now. Someone recently asked me what types of students I disliked most. The truth (honestly) is that it’s very, very rare for a teacher to specifically dislike a student; we do, however, have some pet behaviors that lots of students evidence from time to time (or all the time) that drive us up the wall. So, in answer to the question, I put together a list of the stereotypes of students that drive a teacher nuts.
Disclaimer: Yes, these are harsh. I’m of the opinion that criticism of a student lets them know you’re actually paying attention and care. They’re so used to generic praise that it rolls off – but specific criticism actually tells them you’re paying attention. That way, when you deliver REAL praise later… that’s special, indeed. You don’t want to be like these students, types of students teachers dislike most:
The “Minimal Effort Kid” – I teach a class where – frequently – the sky is the limit. If you do an amazing job, I’ll say you did an amazing job… and compliments in my class are rarer than saints in Las Vegas. Now I get that not every kid I teach wants to impress the teacher, but c’mon now. End of the year project, you get a month to sort it out, create some new knowledge or research on any subject you want and all you want to know is, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” Well, you could practice the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?” ’cause that’s where that attitude will lead you, superstar!
Captain Consequence – The kid who finds any excuse in the book to avoid owning up to the consequences of their own actions. From “my computer took three days to finish updating” to “I had a football game last night” to “I just have so much going on” and occasionally with a helping of “I just didn’t understand what to do,” Captain Consequence has a different excuse for every occasion. Because life happens TO you, not WITH you, gang! You have no ability to influence events, find ways to make it work, and you are a helpless passerby in your own existence. I mean, your teacher is a parent, an educator, and is going back to school (and therefore pretty much always working in his room during lunch) but you can’t BEAR to have FIVE minutes out of your social schedule to get your homework sorted out. Because you’re YOUNG, and life is HARD. Seems legit. Remember that “I’m a victim who can’t make change happen in my life” attitude down the line. I’m sure your cellmate will listen to you whimper in the middle of the night with real sympathy.
Nitro Nervous Ned – “Mr. Teacherman, is this right? Did I do this right? Should I turn this in now? Is this how you wanted it done? Is this good? Is a 98 a good grade? Should I do it again? Should I do it better? Which topic should I choose? Which nostril should I pick? Can I come in tomorrow morning so you can offer me advice on my attire? Can I weasel any possible information out of you about the test so I can delegitimize my own efforts? Do you know the name of a good psychiatrist for when I have my nervous breakdown when I’m 22?” Look. Stop drinking Red Bull. Stop playing games until 3 a.m. Tell your parents to ease off the pressure a little, and stop thinking that teachers are the fount of all knowledge. It’s my job to guide. It’s your job to learn. Make a mistake or two. That’s the best way to learn. Really.
The Invisible Gamer – This guy. I sometimes wonder if the Invisible Gamer really does think he’s the next Harry Houdini or some other stage magician… or if I’ve got a kid who’s so idiotically stubborn that he can and will continue gaming, even when he’s been spotted, simply because he thinks he can be so persistent about it that I’ll give up. No man, it’s cool, you pwn those bad guys. I’m sure that will totally help you get what we’re learning today. Of course you’re still paying attention! That’s why your score on that game is higher than your score on the last test, because you really are THE ONLY KID IN HISTORY that can do both at once. Man, I’m amazed by you. I want to BE you. Here’s the good news, though: You can play games all the way through summer school too, Chucky! Bon Voyage!
The Militant Grade Chaser – This kid is frequently friends with Nitro Nervous Ned. “Teacher, I got a 98 on this. What did I do wrong? Why did I lose the two points? Can I get extra credit?” Look, my already-sociopathic-trending-friend, those two points? They don’t matter. No really – they don’t. Your average is going to be an A either way for the year. Never mind focusing on the learning, though, no sir. Chase that grade! I’m sure being magna cum moron will impress just SO many people. Don’t forget that after your college graduation, you’ll still have to actually be able to function in the real world. Or maybe not. Colleges can always use a few more pie-in-the-sky intellectuals producing journals no one but other pie-in-the-sky types will read. Carry on, carry on.
The Funny Man – Now look: I like a good joke as much as the next guy. In fact, I teach with a very solid helping of humor on a daily basis. (Or at least, I think I’m funny.) But this guy. DIS. GUY. He doesn’t know when to quit, and when it tanks his grades and he doesn’t get the material, that’s okay, because people still laugh at me. Yeah, they’re still laughing at you, bro. The same way the king used to laugh at the court jester when he’d mess himself. Here’s a tip: the social approbation you think you’re winning right now? It won’t matter in a week, and it surely won’t matter five years from now. No, you can’t just “get serious” when you get to (insert conveniently far away academic time here) and you can’t just magically “turn it on.” Academic success is a habit built over time, and the only habit you’re building right now is to tape a kick me sign to your forehead and hope for the best. Pro Tip: Almost every paid comedian is a highly educated adult – even the Blue Collar Comedy Boys have a lot more learning than they let on. But maybe you can beg for tips at the local comedy shop when you grow up…y’know… between washing dishes and cleaning up for Happy Helga’s Dancing Cat show. Sounds like a life I’d want to live. Laugh it up!
Existential Girl – Exemplifying #firstworldproblems one day at a time. Now look, it’s entirely possible that you really do have real problems. Such things exist. It’s also possible that you have NO problems, and you’re choosing to perceive the smallest details as huge problems rather than accept that no one’s life is perfect and you need to muscle through and get with reality. Poor you. You’re the third prettiest girl in the school. Not QUITE everyone is your friend. Your parents OCCASIONALLY scowl at each other. Your grades aren’t QUITE perfect (but Militant Grade Chaser would love to help you with that) and your life is just SO HARD. I’m sorry for you. Living in your first world country, with your great education, clean water, healthy food, great life prospects and the world at your feet. It’s SO HARD to be you. Pro tip: Everyone has a skeleton in their closet, and everyone has a pebble in their shoe. Step up. Heroes are the people who walk on the pebbles and don’t make excuses.
Righto. That’s the bell. Time to go meet this year’s crop of those faces for another day. You know who you are.