Middle School Students and Their Various Personalities

types of students
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Middle school students, like adults, come from different places intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Teachers must learn how to work with a wide range of personalities that present themselves to understand what each student needs. To prepare to teach middle school, familiarize yourself with these common personality traits.

Remember that every student is characterized by a combination of attributes even when there is one that defines them more than the rest. Look at the whole child and avoid generalizing based on a single trait.

Cruel

Every school has bullies. They tend to target those that cannot or will not defend themselves. There are always underlying causes of cruel behavior that motivate students to act out—these can include anything from extreme insecurity to trouble at home. A teacher should never dismiss a student that is mean to others because they often need just as much help as their victims, sometimes more.

Bullying can be physical or emotional, so be on the lookout for both. Be diligent about spotting bullying as soon as it happens so that you can quickly put an end to it. Teach your class to stand up for each other to prevent bullying from getting out of hand when you don't notice it. Once you have identified cruel tendencies in a student, begin trying to find out what is hurting them.

Leader

Everyone looks up to these students. Natural leaders are typically enthusiastic, well-liked, and well-rounded individuals that have tremendous impacts on their classmates. They are respectful and respected. They might not notice other students looking to them as examples because they don't seek out attention. Leaders still need to be mentored and nurtured but probably don't need the same type of guidance from you as their classmates. Show these upstanding students their potential and help them make positive differences in and out of your classroom. Remember that even wise and influential students need teachers to help them grow.

Energetic

Some students have energy to spare. This can make it difficult for them to concentrate and even cause them to misbehave without meaning to. The activity of energetic students, from constant bouncing to persistent distraction and blurting, can overwhelm any classroom. Work with them to develop strategies for success—they might need accommodations to help them focus and get their work done. Sometimes these students have undiagnosed behavioral disorders such as ADHD that should be addressed by a professional.

Overly Silly

Every class has students who take it upon themselves to keep everyone entertained—the class clowns. They tend to love attention and don't mind if it is positive or negative as long as they get a response. Overly silly students often get in trouble when they let their desire to stand out get the best of them and they stop following rules in order to amuse. Rather than immediately referring these students to administration for disciplinary action, try reasoning with them. Find out what you can do to help them set a good example instead of always trying to make others laugh.

Motivated

Motivated students are naturally hard workers. They hold themselves to high standards and go above and beyond to achieve their goals. Many teachers enjoy having ambitious students because they don't need to be convinced to do their best but be careful not to dismiss their needs. Students with large appetites for success tend to have low tolerances for failure and might be unfair to themselves when they don't perform as well as they would like to. Encourage them to find a healthy balance between pushing themselves and making mistakes.

Gifted and Talented

Students with above-average intelligence bring an interesting dynamic to the class. They tend to move more quickly through material and exhibit skills beyond their age, which you can draw on occasionally to enrich your instruction. However, there are two ways that other students generally respond to those gifted and talented and neither is favorable: They might shun them because they are different or quirky or rely on them for academic help. Both of these scenarios can be detrimental to the well-being of an exceptionally bright student, so watch for signs of them being mistreated or taken advantage of.

Organized

These students are always prepared for class. Remembering to complete homework is not an issue and they probably don't need your help keeping track of their materials either. These students prefer order and predictability and might have trouble dealing with anything that contradicts this. Put their skills to use with class jobs and encourage them to set examples for others on how to stay organized. If they find functioning in disorder and chaos difficult, teach them strategies for coping and adapting.

Quiet and Subdued

Some students are introverted, shy, and withdrawn. They more than likely have a few close friends and interact very little with the rest of the class. They won't always participate in class because sharing their ideas in discussions and working with others is well outside of their comfort zone. Find a way to connect with these students so that you can accurately assess what they are able to do, what they know, and what they need. Zero in on the traits that make them good students and do not punish them for being quiet (this will probably make them even less likely to communicate).

Disengaged or Unmotivated

Every class will have students that frequently seem disconnected or even appear to be lazy. Sometimes these unobservant and non-participatory students have trouble focusing their mental capital on academics and other times they just check out when they don't understand. These students don't usually call much attention to themselves and will fly under your radar if you're not careful. Find out what is keeping them from succeeding: Is it a social problem? Academic obstacle? Something else? Students like these need you to tend to their hierarchy or needs before they can apply themselves in school because there might be much more pressing issues on their minds than schoolwork.

Dramatic

Some students create drama just to be the center of attention. They might gossip or instigate to get other students to notice them and don't always have great reputations. Don't let these students manipulate others—they are often adept at taking advantage of different traits in people to get results. Similarly to bullies, these students might just be using drama to cover up their problems. Dramatic students might desperately need your help and not know how to express this.

Social

There are always going to be a few students that seem to get along with everybody. They love to talk and thrive in social situations. Social students bring life to discussions and unique harmony to the class—use their skills before their socializing gets out of hand. They have the ability to reach out to subdued students, quell drama, and help leaders positively impact the class. Teachers sometimes view these students as nuisances but they can be really valuable additions to a group.

Opinionated

Some students just want others to know what they think. Though their intentions might not be to upset you or others, opinionated students have a tendency to point out flaws and question everything, sometimes derailing your teaching. They are often quick-witted and more aware than their peers, making them feel as if their classmates must want to hear what they have to say (and often they do). Don't let these students get under your skin when they talk back. Instead, guide them to become leaders.

Disorganized

Some students seem unable to stay organized. They forget to turn in homework, don't keep their backpacks or lockers organized, and don't possess strong time-management skills. Many teachers scold disorganized students for making mistakes when really they should be equipping them with tools and strategies for effective organization. Teach disorganized students organization tips just like you would teach anything else before their inability to be neat keeps them from learning.