Comparing Student Behaviors to Types of Songs.

In the time I’ve taught high schoolers, whether during student teaching or professional “grown up” teaching, I’ve gathered an arsenal of techniques for dealing with various types of student behavior in the classroom. My brain is a utility belt full of different Bat-arangs and Bat-shark repellents ready to control any (or at least most) situations my students could toss at me. As I was considering dealing with these different types of behaviors, I thought that there are five main ones I’ve dealt with so far in my classroom, and that those five types of student behavior remind me of certain types of songs.

Type of student: The loud, attention-seeking, potentially bi-polar, distracter of others around him/her.
Type of song: A few tracks from a System of a Down album played in a row.

I can think of several examples of these students, and it seems like every classroom has at least one this year. I have one class with three, and it’s like having three stereos, each one playing either playing Toxicity, Hypnotize, and Mesmerize all at once. And that’s horrible. One minute these kids are loud (SO LOUD) and disturbing others, the next they are quiet and doing exactly what you asked of them, the next they are out of their chair and being loud (again) and maybe threatening violence. You know at some point, just as plenty of SOAD’s songs are bound to be catchy at some point, these students will participate in an activity in the best way possible, and that moment will be really rewarding and fun. And then they go back to screaming, maybe with abrupt pauses, and you’ll hear yourself saying a lot of, “Be quiet, please/sit down/please be respectful of those around you/stop shouting/don’t say that word again.”

Type of student: The quiet, under-the-radar, non-participatory, potential sleeper student.
Type of song: Mostly anything by Bon Iver

Nearly the opposite of the first student type, these students are well-behaved and will probably (hopefully) get all of their work done without being told more than the time or times the whole class has been told (other students may have to be reminded to do their work, you kind of have to tune them into what is expected, but these students may be auto-tuned). These students are pleasant and don’t really cause any trouble. They mostly want to be left alone to complete their tasks, but they are the most easily-overlooked and could at any moment be subtly refusing to do their work or refusing to stay awake. They want to fit nicely into the background, like an extra in a movie. Sometimes they are more like “Perth” or “Creature Fear” and will add some excitement to class, but usually they want to be pleasant and calm (so, boring, but I don’t mean that in a mean way). I’m very OK with these students behaving this way, but I feel like it is nice to check on them just to make sure they aren’t perpetually sleepy or perpetually being broken up with.

Type of student: The one who is too smart for the class he or she is in, and he/she knows it.
Type of song: One of those 18-minute early Rush epics.

These students are pretty fun, not everyone appreciates the complicated ideas they contribute to class (and they are eager to contribute). During these class discussions, these students are often long-winded, intelligent, allegorical, complex, and a little too excited in everything they say. Sometimes what they are bringing up is barely even relevant, but they just gotta throw something out there anyway (like that random 5/8 time signature measure Rush sometimes delivers, or the “rap” in “Roll The Bones”). Not a lot of girls like them. They kinda dress weird. But they are totally comfortable and confident in exactly what they are saying, and in where they are. When the other students are sick of the epics and demand radio-friendly singles, these nerds are just gonna go ahead and ignore that and release 2112 (and you’ll love it).

Type of student: The cut-up. Not a bad kid, but still distracts.
Type of song: David Lee Roth era Van Halen.

Another fun student. Perhaps the most fun. They’ve got the best stories to share if you open up a concept or text for discussion, and they probably have the attention of the other students better than the teacher normally does. When this student raises his or her hand and I call on them, it is because I know and have accepted that he is going to be the one in control for a few minutes, and then he’ll let me take the wheel again. This is the kind of student who wears floral patterns on Fridays, and high fives everybody when he’s feeling extra happy or extra ironic, and reads his assigned role in Shakespeare or The Crucible out loud in a funny voice that captures everyone’s attention. Ever tried to listen to “Panama” or “Dance the Night Away” or “Unchained” and stop the track in the middle and go do something else? You can’t do it. Cannot be done. When this student brings his or her personal party into your classroom, you just have to let it run its course, like a virus of good times, before you can go back to lecturing or explaining an assignment.

Type of student: The politely defiant.
Type of student: Any song on a skipping CD.

This last type of student would like to do nothing and be left alone. And I’d like to leave them alone. But I’m a teacher, and it is my job to make sure they are accomplishing and learning what it is I have set up for them to accomplish and learn. If I just let them sit there in their uncomfortable desk and fail my class, then I’m not doing my job. They don’t cause any real problems for the class, and they don’t distract anyone, but they will look you in your stupid grownup face and tell you kindly that they aren’t going to do the required assignment. Why? They just don’t want to. And they aren’t subtle about not doing the assignment–they aren’t pretending to do work so that you wouldn’t bother them. That would be too much work, to fake the assignment. So now everyone else can tell that they are refusing to do the assignment, so now you have to say something to them. It would just be easier to ignore the student who is obviously not doing what he or she is supposed to, just like it would just be easier to listen to the scratched CD that occasionally skips beats of that song you like. But it’s too annoying, or you feel like you deserve better, so you take out the CD and breathe on it, and polish it with your sleeve–you set that CD straight!–but then it still skips. Aagh! C’mon, CD, do what you are supposed to do! How many times do I have to breathe on and wipe you before you do what I want you to do? When you breath and sleeve-polish enough, though, sometimes it works. Or sometimes the CD works in a different CD player, on a different day.

These are not all of the student types, but just a few, of course. I don’t know when I’ll experience any more student archetypes, but I’m sure I’ll try to relate them to The Black Keys, early Kanye, or a Beatles song by George Harrison when I do.

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