Controlled Chaos of Classroom Personalities

Dear Jerry,

Whew! The first four weeks of school have absolutely flown by! It’s hard to believe that it was only a month ago you were placed inside a folder as a practical joke for the first day of classes. Now it seems like we’ve known you for ages.

As you hang out with the crazy One Room students every week, you’ve probably had moments of wondering, “How is it that such very different people manage to come together and make learning exciting, challenging, and so much fun?”

I have no idea.

Hey! Stop laughing at me!

Okay, okay, so that was a bit of a sarcastic answer, though the reality is that many days I’m simply left shaking my head and praising God that despite every plan of mine getting turned on its head, we still got some schoolwork done.

You see, working with different personalities is tricky. Teaching them is particularly so. The sanguine students (of which there are several) are loud, chatty, giggling or jamming out to their music. The meticulous melancholics are intense, competitive, overworking and not really sure yet what to make of their “just a little crazy” teacher. Those with choleric personalities are confident they could run the classroom better, can’t wait to make their opinions known, are sure they already know the answer and volunteer to be in charge. And the two phlegmatic students?? Well, I’m thankful to have a few that are on the quieter side, but just wish they’d feel a little more urgency in getting their homework done.

They are all so different, but all so dear, and its my job to help them all stretch, grow and learn in the best way possible. The difficulty is that sometimes doing that requires thinking WAY outside the traditional school (or homeschool, for that matter) box. For instance – what do to with the giggling sanguines?? When it’s not a distraction or disruption … let them. And even let them collaborate, using their naturally social dispositions as an advantage to learning together.

Melancholies need success and clearly defined guidelines to follow. Presenting them with opportunities to strategize and organize gives their natural strengths a chance to shine. For choleric personalities I try to challenge their thinking and let them learn to use their knack for argument as learning advantage. When I give them younger students to mentor, they prove what they’ve learned by teaching it back. Phlegmatic students take learning at a slower pace and when I let them set the tempo they prove that slow and steady often wins a race. And when they have permission to pursue their passions? Watch out, because its the phlegmatic focus that drives the whole class deeper into a topic.

Of course, it’s not good for anyone to only be in situations that play to their strengths. So there are times when I ask the sanguines to work quietly, don’t give the melancholies an outline to follow, make the choleric students work under someone else’s leadership and the phlegmatic ones turn in a paper on time. Those do seem to be the moments when we descend into what can be called at best an organized chaos, but I have a feeling Jerry, that the learning that’s taking place then is maybe even more important than usual.

You’re the one with the front row seat, though, so you’ll have to tell me.

~ Miss Sarah

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