Perfectionists and Procrastinators: Dealing with Different Student Personalities
If there is one thing all teachers know, it’s how to deal with different student personalities! In a single year, teachers may have a class full of class clowns, extroverts, social butterflies, and people pleasers. You have, no doubt, developed many different strategies for teaching students based on personality types. Ideas that work with one student may not work for another. However, there are two student personalities that can be more difficult to handle — the perfectionists and procrastinators.
How to Deal with Perfectionists
Having students who are constantly striving for perfection sounds like a great thing, but perfectionism can be damaging. Oftentimes, perfectionists aren’t only pushing for perfect grades, but to be the very best at extracurricular activities in which they participate. High-achieving students often suffer from anxiety due to the pressures (perceived or real) that others put on them or they put on themselves. They often struggle with depression that develops when they feel they have failed to meet expectations. Over time, they can develop a true fear of failing.
Stress that Mistakes are OK
You know that nobody is perfect, but that can be hard for a perfectionist to accept. Instead of pushing towards the unreachable concept of “perfect,” encourage your students to embrace the concept of “excellence.” Perfection is never making any mistakes. Excellence is being the very best that you can be. Striving for excellence is a much healthier goal for a perfectionist.
Prioritize Learning over Grades
Many students would be really proud to receive a 98 percent on a summative assessment, but a perfectionist will not be able to overlook that last 2 percent. In these instances, turn the conversation to focus on everything she learned and all her accomplishments throughout the unit, rather than the number on the top of the page.
Offer Non-Graded Activities
Provide time for your class to work on activities that won’t be graded — or won’t even be collected. You might be surprised how perfectionists perform differently when there is no grade on the line! Journal writing, reading for pleasure, partner games, or activities involving art or music can help them decompress, show off their creative side, or express themselves without concern.
How to Deal with Procrastinators
There can be a lot of issues hidden behind procrastination. It’s so much more than not wanting to do the work. Students who procrastinate often struggle with motivation, comprehension, organization, concentration, or confidence. Like perfectionists, procrastinators also face anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. As procrastination affects a student’s academic performance, a cycle of poor grades and poor self-confidence begins.
Set Smaller Goals
Procrastination often stems from the fact that a student is overwhelmed by the assignment he is facing. Simply taking that first step can be difficult for him. Help alleviate the fear of big projects by breaking it into smaller steps, assigning daily or weekly deadlines, and noting them in the student’s planner or calendar.
Peak Their Interests
Another reason that students procrastinate is that they can’t see how the assignment is relevant to them. Although it’s not possible to differentiate every assignment, when it is possible, provide your students with choices. Perhaps they can choose a topic that interests them or they can make choices about the format of the assignment. When students are motivated, getting started will be a whole lot easier.
Provide Natural Consequences
As much as you want to help students who tend to procrastinate, one of the best ways to break the habit is by allowing them to face the natural consequences. It might be a lower grade, missing out on fun classroom activities to complete work, or not being able to participate in extracurricular activities due to poor academic performance, but there are repercussions for students who continually procrastinate.
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