The “Know-It-All” - Meeting the Needs of Students
If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see me (& all teachers, etc. …) dealing with a multitude of personalities and subject matters (school, family, group & individual matters) all day long — and seemingly all at once. It is a very active, organic, impulsive and exciting environment within which to operate.
A few years ago I found myself speaking with a friend of mine whose child was (in her words) a “know-it-all”. I know … it’s not a flattering term … and she wished she could find a kinder way of describing this one aspect of her personality … but it is what it is and she was who she was.
Accordingly, she was (or is) – 99% of the time – a charming, well-mannered student. She was is a motivated learner who loved to participate in class. She assumed responsibility for following all directions & initiating tasks. Her organizational skills were excellent. She made a conscious effort to remain engaged in the learning process, took pride in her accomplishments and eagerly reviewed concepts to ensure understanding.
However … she could be impulsive and quick to presume … to make assumptions. She often assumed that she was right; that she knew better than others – and corrected teachers & peers- rightly or wrongly – several times a day. … For lack of a better term she came across as a “know-it-all” – an unflattering quality for such a lovely child.
So what to do? Clearly, being a “know-it-all” did not present her in a good light … and often annoyed the other children (& grown-ups) around her. The goal was clear: To discover the “roots” of the behavior and then to address the situation as best as possible. So to that end I suggested that they keep a diary of sorts and developed a plan. One must act as, like a detective, gathering clues, hot on the the trial of the “suspect”: The “Know-It-All”. One must investigate the roots of the behaviour & work toward developing strategies to address the situation – to meet her needs.
& So today I thought I’d share some of the observations with you … I hope that you find the following useful – maybe as a spring board for your own learning and teaching.
(Please note that despite the label … she really was (& is) a lovely child!!!)
(I) The Roots:
- attention seeking
- insecurity – wanting to connect with others
- a sense of wanting to belong – of being socially acceptable/accepted
- the belief that being an expert will make them “popular”/listened to
- a string desire to be in control of some aspect of “life”
(II) What to do:
(A) Model/teach/review (e.g. using pictures books, drama, Learning Logs, individual meeting times, etc.):
… social skills – & keep a close eye on what’s going on
… active listening skills
… conversation skills
… reflective thinking skills
… the “wait time” necessary prior to responding (e.g. processing time)
(B) Provide her with:
… appropriate attention; recognize her efforts – ultimately this is what she is seeking
… special/desirable/appropriate jobs that make her feel good, smart, valued – giver her opportunities to shine
… an emotionally supportive environment
… time / activities for social skills development
… opportunities to process, reflect, reevaluate
… opportunities to see/evaluate/debate opposing points of view
… opportunities for “choice” – so that she can feel in control at times (but be sure to set limits)
(C) Partner with:
… her; let her know what I am seeing, what we are going to do & why. As the teacher I have to be empathetic, understanding, open, prepared & strong.
… other teachers & specialists who work with her at school
… parents – we are a team after all
… ignore, embarrass, appear to be frustrated or “annoyed”
… never allow her peers to tell her “come down on her”- that is an adult responsibility (e.g. to address and correct behaviour)