Dealing with various personalities within a classroom

“Why are we all so different from each other? Why does a person want to stay quiet while the other won’t stop talking about Michael Jackson and the pop brigade?” When a professor at Harvard brought this question up for discussion, he received the most intellectually satisfying response. “Because we are humans brought about by natural selection. We have expanded our geographical boundaries in search of food and shelter, thereby creating the morally questionable concept of distance. Distance is equally proportionate to change and different people brought up, groomed and raised in different geographies behave differently.”


Every person is different, be it the way he/she looks or the way he/she behaves and responds to situations. This is the most challenging aspect of training. This is because people are innately trained in their early years to behave in a certain way and when there comes a time to train them (in adulthood) on a particular issue which clashes with their original ideology, their behavioral instinct objects.


A good school teacher will have a field day in judging the character and personality of a student over a period of 12 months. As a corporate trainer, what is harder though, is dealing with different personalities in a classroom for only a short period of time. There isn’t any time to judge a particular person or to longitudinally interact with the said person.


A good trainer cares about the different personalities in the room and respects them. A great trainer finds out why their personalities are different and adapts his/her training methodology to suit a certain system in order to reach every person in the room. A trainer can never use the cookie-cutter approach with a group of trainees. If he/she does, only the trainee (s) who innately resembles the trainer in mass outlook, world-views or behavioural patterns can truly understand the message being communicated.


Let us look at some of the different personalities in every class room:


  1. Bully – As a trainer, bullies are a nightmare. They not only pick on other trainees, they are also so-called anti-establishment. Recognizing a bully in a classroom is easy as their body language is hardly challenging to decipher. They usually cross their arms (a sign of insecurity) and bear an arrogant look on their faces. Dealing with them requires a substantial amount of time and a firm approach as they tend to disagree with almost everything the trainer says or represents.


  1. Class Clown – Class Clowns are usually people who enjoy a sense of humor that they think is better than the others’, which ultimately might not be a bane for the trainer. The trainer needs to acknowledge his/her jokes but also make it very clear that the session is under his/her control and not the trainees’.


  1. Clueless – These trainees do not understand general sarcasm and social cues that the others do. The trainer needn’t be very worried about these trainees’ behavior; however the bigger problem would be comprehension, especially when the session is about the social structures of the society.


  1. Natural Leader – These trainees are, to put it plainly, the easiest to teach. The other trainees look up to them and mirror their personalities. Leaders are hard-working and understand the problems of the trainer and hence will pay full attention (thereby influencing others to do so) to the session. Sometimes, these trainees are hated for their leadership skills and although others agree to the views of the leader, they wouldn’t like him/her as a social being.


These are the most basic types of personalities in a classroom. A great trainer will identify certain traits of the trainees and resonate to them collectively, trying to make the same impact with every trainee. After all, there would be no fun in training if all trainees had the same personality; juxtaposing robots being programmed to perform certain functions wouldn’t be then a laughable thought.

– Naresh Mulkunte

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