Know-it-all-ism and What to do with student like me

Snape being hugged by Harry, Ron and Hermione ...
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“Are you incapable of restraining yourself, or do you take pride in being an insufferable know-it-all ?” – Prof. Severus Snape

I have been thinking a bit about know-it-alls, “Besserwisser” (better-knower) as the Germans call it.  I have been accused of being a nerd, and I will freely admit it, but lately I am beginning to realize that I am a Know-it-all.  I enjoy being the guy who knows all the answers.  Part of that is because it makes me feel smart, and part of that is because it makes me special, and part of that is because it makes me somehow ‘better’ than others.  If I hear someone ask a question and I know the answer, I find it hard to restrain myself – I have to answer.

As I study to become a teacher I find myself in an interesting position:  How do I deal with students who are like me? What do I do with nerds? What do I do with students who cannot restrain themselves?

I have been in classes where I have not been the only “Besserwisser”.  Especially as I have taken large University lectures, I have had experiences with how annoying it can be when one student tries to show off that they know all of the answers.  It can distract the teacher and it can disaffect other students, especially as this student repeatedly made comments and asked questions that took the lecture off on tangents or made the teacher repeat information that had already been well-covered.

As a teacher, you want to help this student.  You want to encourage them in their enthusiasm, but you don’t want them taking over your lessons and detracting from the rest of the class. That seems to be the great quandary of teaching.  How do you take care of the individual student without ignoring the entire class?  And how do you make sure the whole class is progressing without leaving any student behind?

Going back to my University class, I was very impressed with how the professor handled this outspoken student.  The professor would call on this student occasionally, and allow her to speak at times, but then sometimes the professor would ask her to wait and allow others an opportunity to answer and speak.  It was very diplomatic and really impressed me.  I hope that I can be like that.  To take this student aside, and help them understand that they are appreciated, that, as teachers, we enjoy that they are enthusiastic in class, but help them to understand that there are others in class that need to learn.

What are your thoughts? What experiences have you had in class?  How should a teacher teach the entire class, but not ignore the needs of individual students?

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2 thoughts on “Know-it-all-ism and What to do with student like me

  1. Ted

    Nice Harry Potter quote!

    You ask some really tough, insightful questions. One way I’ve seen is a high school teacher I had who would have the class work on group projects and then individually call students to a desk outside of the class in the hallway. There, you’d have an individual student-teacher conference about how you’re doing in class and what you like and don’t like. I imagine that tactfully explaining appropriate classroom decorum would be useful during these conferences.

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