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dozens upon dozens
class clown
personal reflection
university classroom
social aspect
better education
higher frequency
right moment
many different types
The Classroom Dynamic
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What do a psychologist, a McDonald’s manager, a bar tender, and a secretary have in common? They can all be aggregated to the ever-changing dynamic that is the College / University classroom. There are many different types of people that inhabit the classroom in this day and age. The suck-up, the teacher's pet, the slacker, the mom looking for a better education to support her children, the father that wants to make his children proud; they all have their side of the spectrum. What do these individuals bring to the table? And more importantly, in which side of the spectrum do YOU lie?

Identity Identifying your contribution to the classroom in the social aspect of it is not easy, but not overtly difficult. There are many characteristics that you can look out for that, upon personal reflection, can clue you in to what type of impact you have in the classroom. Do you frequently raise your hand, trying to answer every question you think you may have the right answer to? Are you quiet throughout the time in the classroom and find group-centric processes laborious? Are you the class clown, always inserting a joke or two when the right moment presents itself? These are the questions that can help you to better understand the type of person and impact you have on the classroom experience.

Impact What is the actual process of finding out your impact on the classroom? After reflecting upon your characteristics and realizing how you use them, you must then understand how they affect the classroom dynamic. I do want to be clear however, and say this is by no means a psychological study, but a social one. The individual who consistently raises his/her hand usually gets praise from the professor. Why? Many professors understand how difficult it can be to speak with dozens upon dozens of eyes staring at you; they go through it every day after all. They want to encourage that type of social behavior as much as possible. Rewarding such behavior means a higher frequency of participation, which means a lower rate of awkward silence.

Unfortunately for the quiet student, there is no such level of praise. The quiet student speaks aloud when, and only when, he is picked on by the professor. Why? Well, the quiet student is what is referred to as the thinker. It is much easier for him/her to contemplate things than to articulate them. This is however, a good thing. This keeps the classroom dynamic very balanced. This turns into a perfect combination of quiet moments of contemplation among the class to engaging debates among classmates in reference to classroom-appropriate topics. This balance does sound great, but only in an ideal world does such balance exist. And as we all know, we are living far from such a world. What counter-acts this seemingly intuitive, sought-after dynamic?

The Squeaky Wheel I think we have all heard the phrase "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". That is the thought process behind many class clowns. The phrase basically means that if you make the most noise you'll get the most attention. This is very true in the classroom. Those who actively seek attention in the way of jokes or other similar behaviors get noticed very quickly. How does this affect the classroom dynamic? It sways the focus away from everything else to one individual. It is like giving complete power of the world to one person. In that instance, this individual can easily change the dynamic all by him/herself. Personally, I've always thought there was one flaw to the squeaky wheel method of doing things: there’s only so long a squeaky wheel can continue to exist before the owner realizes that replacing the wheel is much better for the car in the long term.

In Conclusion There are many different variables to the classroom dynamic. There are many different individuals that shape the way the classroom functions. As stated, this is merely a social observation, not a psychological one. This still does not detract from how powerful the social aspect among classrooms can get. Whether you're the quiet type, or the squeaky wheel, you do bring something to the table.

Note: I realize I didn't get into the specifics of how your characteristics affect other students or how the professor’s traits affect the classroom dynamic. Nor did I speak about possible social mutations, like a pro-active student who happens to show characteristics of a "squeaky wheel". I felt this was unnecessary as this articles intention was to show how individuals change the class environment.

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