A teacher’s Dream Team of students
During the World Cup last year, experts and journalists often discussed the team of the tournament. It got me thinking about what my own Dream Team of eleven students would be like. The idea was to take a light-hearted look at the different kinds of student-type, and see how they could combine to create a winning combination. The underlying idea is that a classroom with a mixture of personalities can be harnessed by the teacher and used to his/her advantage.
Just as football dream teams are merely the stuff of fantasy, though, it is highly unlikely that I would ever have a group of students that boasted all the skills of the members of the Dream Team listed below. So what? In reality, we don’t actually need a dream team at all. All we need to do is appreciate the talents and personalities present in all of the groups we teach, and to make an effort to appreciate and recognise the great contribution our students can make to our lessons – if we let them. Sir Alex Ferguson once said that in order for his team to win a big match, eight players needed to play well – and it didn’t matter which eight. In such cases the star player can have a terrible game and the team still wins.
In my teaching I’ve found that the contributions of individual students can have a huge impact (energising, enervating or infuriating) on the entire group dynamic. The most significant contributions often come from unexpected sources. I realise that I’m at my most content as a teacher working with the kind of heterogeneous groups where you never know in advance which student is going to make the telling contribution to that day’s class, to pop up and score the winning goal, if you like.
My Dream Team of students
1. Carrie Holder The helpful student
The class goalkeeper, she has a safe pair of hands and can be relied on not to spill things to the ground. She is happy and willing to carry things for you between the staffroom and the classroom, and to help out generally.
2. Lauren Order The peacekeeper
The best groups often have their own ‘enforcer’ – a student who takes on the responsibility of keeping order in the group for you. It is rarely necessary to ask the group to settle down when Lauren is around.
3. Win Chester The archivist
Win Chester has a huge collection of music and films on his/her computer and an extensive list of CDs and DVDs. Even better, s/he is happy to search online for you and to download anything you say you need for a lesson with the group. Your own personal Googler and CD burner!
4. Kit O’Toole The technician
This student is more than happy to help with any technical problems you might be having in class with a TV, projector, computer, CD player or anything else. Better still, s/he usually has a pair of scissors (plus lighter, pen-knife, permanent marker, etc) in his pencil case or school bag.
5. Tabby La Rasa The board cleaner
Football teams have sweepers, and this classroom has its equivalent: a board cleaner. More often to be found in primary schools than secondary schools, Tabby La Rasa will enthusiastically and conscientiously clean the board for you whenever you ask.
6. D Lee Gent The grafter
This student can always be relied on to work hard and stay focused – to keep her his/her head when others are losing theirs. Sets a good example to his/her classmates and keeps the group’s work ethic intact, pushing others along when necessary.
7. Raul Model The captain
The student in the group who the others listen to and look up to. When this student is on your side, the others in the group will be even more responsive.
8. Dee Major The musician
This student can be counted on to bring a guitar or synthesizer to class at Christmas time so you can sing Jingle Bells…
9. Mike L Angelo The artist
The creative student who can draw and paint beautifully. S/he is the one who can brighten up the lesson with illustrations on the board.
10. Jenny Rater The creative one
This student is full of bright ideas and can always give a creative or unusual answer to any question.
11. Joe Kerr The comedian
Joe Kerr has the priceless gift of being able to make everyone laugh.