Thursday, September 5, 2013

The 11 Most Common Types of Students

Photo via

Every year, you can expect them---certain student personality types that seem to resurrect themselves over and over again, somehow managing to pop their way into every single one of your classes and into those nightmarish teaching dreams.

Although stereotyping is generally discouraged, it's hard not to sometimes when all of these types seem to be alive and well, no matter the classroom, Here are eleven of the most common personality types you can expect will turn up over and over again throughout the school years:

1. The Know-It-All: these Hermione Grangers of the world live to study and learn and to let everyone know how much they study and learn. They're the kids who, when told that they need to read as homework, announce to the whole class that they've already read the entire book and ask what they should do next. Make sure you watch their faces carefully for signs of strain and blood loss, as their hands are perpetually up in the air.

2. The Awkward Class Clown: These are the kids who have occasionally received laughs in the past (usually for the wrong reasons) while performing antics of some kind, which turned on an "I need attention" switch in their brain. Now they feel the need to blurt out any possible response--no matter how crazy--to see if it can catch one of those ever-illusive chuckles. Warning: under no condition are you, the teacher, ever to allow yourself even the slightest chuckle or pity laugh over this student.

3. The Too-Smart-for-Work Student: These students, judging by their test scores and nothing else, seem to display all the potential and talent our numbers-driven world could ever want. The only problem? They're obviously WAY too smart to have to do anything that a teacher says. These are the students who read their own books instead of take notes and who go home and complain to their parents about how boring school is because their teachers never make them do anything. It probably goes without saying, but many of these students are not quite as bright as they think they are---as is evidenced by them getting less-than-stellar grades on many assignments from lack of paying attention and/or not doing the work.

4. The Zoner: Whether due to lack of sleep, understanding, or activity, this student is easily recognizable by the ever-present view of the top of their head as they attempt to snooze during your instruction time. Other sure signs of a zoner: frequent glances out the window or door with a dreamy expression on the face, a partially open mouth, or glassy-looking eyes. I've even caught some zoners picking wax out of their ear and looking at it for exorbitant amounts of time.

5. The Socialite: Although this student usually doesn't have the intention of being disruptive or breaking the class rules, they just can't seem to help themselves---their world is all about people, and, quite frankly, talking about that movie they saw last weekend or the cute boy in the last class is way more interesting than learning anything from you. Unless you separate them from every living thing in the class by at least ten feet, they will talk. The solution? Give them leadership and group-learning options whenever possible.

6. The Grade Obsessers: Although often confused with know-it-alls (because there can be an overlap), this particular brand of student doesn't need to know much of anything to qualify as a grade obsesser. These are the kids who ask about extra credit on the first day of school, who come panicking into your room right before grades are due, or who regularly are found crying over a loss of one or two points on a paper or test. Often, these students come pre-equipped with grade-obsessed parents as well, so tread carefully.

7. The Eff-You! Haters: If there was a less crass way of putting that, I would--these are the students who fold their arms, kick out their legs, and dare you to teach them through slitted eyes. Early warning signs of this student would include frequent tardiness, actual swearing problems, plenty of sass, and a tendency to wear baggy clothing and/or dark colors. Oh, and the fact that they flip the bird behind your back.

8. The Wit: Unlike the awkward class clown, this kid is truly clever with his remarks, which often will make it difficult for you to keep a straight face. Although masked by a barrage of sarcastic comments, this student is actually very sharp---they just try to cover it up with humor. But unless you want a class to quickly spiral away from you, try avoiding throwing fuel on their fire by laughing or giving a reaction.

9. The One Concerned with Maintaining Popularity Status At All Costs: While this student can often appear in the form of an overconfident athlete or wannabe model, one thing is for certain---this student is unusually adept at picking up on any and all social cues happening around her. Nothing escapes unnoticed--not the kid stumbling at the front of the room, not the way that boy leaned in to talk to his female neighbor, and especially not the way that one kid came in dressed today. While it's often sneaky, this student's behavior can often escalate to cruelty to maintain the pecking order.

10. The Fidgeters: These students can be summed up by one word: ENERGY. They fidget, tap their pencil, talk to themselves, bring objects to play with, and basically are in constant motion. One thing is for absolute certain when it comes to handling this kid: definitely DON'T ask if he's taken his meds today (no matter how much you might want to!).

11. The Angel: Seemingly the rarest form of all, here is the student who is the perfect blend of effort, smarts, and interest---not only do they actually come to school prepared to learn, but they seem to take great pride in it. They're not necessarily the smartest or the most well-liked, but they're respectful, engaged, and appreciative. These are the students who, from the beginning, melt your heart right to the ground and confirm that the choice to teach was an excellent one.

The funniest thing for me as a teacher is to find out which parts of these "types" that I was as a student---for sure, I was grade-obsessed, but at other times I tried playing up the class wit role or even the know-it-all.

Which type were you? Or can you think of any I missed?

P.S. This post was totally inspired by this post on Bonnie's blog all about how different classes have different personalities. Check it out!


  1. Ha ha that is pretty true! Although you could maybe add a few categories like the brown noser for an example. The kid who is overly helpful. Maybe that is just an elementary thing.

  2. I think it kind of depends on the class, the teacher, and who's in the class to decide which one I am. There are classes where I know I was super annoying, and other classes where the teacher loved me and I was more of an Angel. Friends in the class make a big difference.

  3. I was a grade obsesser. It takes me a lot longer to study and I have to use a lot more study skills and it has taken until recently for me to do okay on multiple choice tests. So, in classes where all of the grade was test weighted I would often get really low scores even though my other stuff was really high. My parents are not grade obsessers at all, but were critical with me about my grades, without being able to help me with any constructive help with school.

    I think a lot of this is the reason I am a special ed teacher. I look forward to helping our kids and being able to constructively help them with school.

  4. you were grade-obsessed. you crazy 4.0er, you ;)


Thanks so much for leaving a comment! I love reading your thoughts :)

01 09 10