Teachers and How to Manage Them
Closing ThoughtsOpinion

Teachers and How to Manage Them

Chana Shapiro flips the script on learning pedagogy, offering advice for students to deal with four types of teachers.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Chana Shapiro
Chana Shapiro

After several months of distance learning, it’s easy to forget that teachers in face-to-face classroom situations must be handled respectfully and wisely. Therefore, I’m offering students, at no charge, strategies for dealing with four common pedagogic personalities. Teachers attend workshops to learn about different types of students. Let’s level the playing field.

The Organizer

In this classroom there is a place for everything, and everything has its place. Color-coded diagrams abound. Students pick up detailed printed assignments from a box near the door. A student chore rotation list is posted to the right of the teacher’s uncluttered desk. Labeling of shelves, nooks, cabinets and carts define each surface and area, designating its purpose. An analog clock and digital timer are mounted side-by-side above the pencil sharpener.

Sample lesson: Using graph paper, plot the style and shoe size of six different people, designating a different color for each one. Extra credit: Compose a 30-word paragraph about each shoe.

Student strategy: Cover all books with sturdy, stain-resistant material. Keep extra erasers and disposable wipes at hand. Show the teacher a chart you maintain of time you spend on homework, computer games and sports.

The Healer

This class grows seven kinds of aloe on a table made from salvaged siding and tree stumps. Posters of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Nader, and Bill and Melissa Gates hang above a collection bin of wire hangers and a compost pail to which students bring their lunch scraps. All compositions and homework are written on both sides of the paper. Students learn in groups, which change weekly, and the class ends each day with a soulful rendition of “We Are the World.”
Sample lesson: Students record the velocity and flight patterns of paper airplanes made from pages of their neighborhood newspapers. Extra credit: Use the newspapers to clean the classroom windows.

Student strategy: Collect discarded Styrofoam and plastic water bottles. Show the class how to turn Styrofoam into super glue and use it to fix the wobbly legs of the plant stand. Then form a volunteer team to make watering cans from the bottles.

The Motivator

Every student is deemed a natural inventor, mathematician, artist, musician and poet, and it is this teacher’s calling to release these latent talents. Students take frequent virtual trips to museums, concerts and plays and then view YouTube interviews of artists and performers. Posters of Elon Musk, Alvin Ailey, Maya Angelou and Leonardo da Vinci hang above a 3D printer, hand mics and microscopes. Students write stories and poems and reproduce them in hand-bound portfolios and participate in ongoing chess and Parcheesi games. Students compose haiku and fold origami cranes, which the PTA sells to buy journals and harmonicas for the class.

Sample lesson: Invent a new use for a shoe horn; name your creation and write a jingle to advertise it. Extra credit: Devise a five-minute TED talk about it.
Student strategy: On the first day of school, bring in a musical video of your pet fish, and wear the pair of socks you knitted over the summer.

The Sharer

Every student knows the ins and outs of this educator’s life, including favorite restaurant, book, car, song and film, as well as how the teacher spent the weekend. For his birthday, students bake a cake and decorate the room to celebrate. Lessons ranging from math to history are usually expanded with the teacher’s personal anecdotes. His fiancée comes to meet the students and everyone weighs in on bands and honeymoon ideas.

Sample lesson: Interview another student and write 200 words about her pet peeve. Then write 200 words advising her how to handle the situation. Extra credit: Present a mock “Dr. Phil” segment about the dilemma.

Student strategy: Create note paper in this teacher’s favorite color with his first, middle, last, and nickname on it. Deliver it to his home, which the masked class visited over the summer to see his new pet dog.

Dear student, even though this handbook sampler merely scratches the surface of teacher styles, I hope it helps. As they say, knowledge is power.

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