Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Usual Suspects

The Bad Boy. The Funny One. The Cute One. The Hot One. The Gay One. Just like a boy band, any group of children has a set number of character types. After teaching numerous sessions at numerous schools and doing birthday parties all over the place, I've come to accept that there are really only about twelve children out there; they just multiply and put on different faces so as to seem like different children.

The Angel
Essentially, this is the elusive perfect child. Takes in information and remembers it. Raises her hand when speaking. Is inquisitive but only talks when permitted. Follows the rules and doesn't try to enforce the rules herself. Unfortunately, she tends to get lost among kids who are infinitely more annoying. She often disappears with the Wallflower.

The Wallflower
Super-shy child. You get the impression she doesn't want to be there, or she really does but can't express it. Doesn't like to talk, doesn't like to make decisions. If you don't keep an eye on her, you'll forget she's even there.

The Princess
Easily identifiable by Disney gear, the Princess is the embodiment of all things "girl." There is not enough Hannah Montana merchandise in the world to satisfy her craving. She is usually in the possession of an iPod and a cell phone, which she will whip out and show off at all times. Prone to talking back, she's been raised to believe that kids are hip and cool and that adults just don't understand her world and are therefore idiots. She believes she's an exception to all rules and that her dazzling (sickening) smile will get her out of any jam.

The Jock

You can spot him from a mile away in his sports jersey with his hair buzzed. It's a wonder he's with you instead of out playing football or wrestling grizzly bears with his bare hands. He tends to be a kid of few words, with a voice deeper than normal, like someone injected him with a shot of Manliness that morning. The Jock's mood can swing either way: from super enthusiastic to not giving a shit. Enjoyment of material is not the trademark of the Jack----it's the parents' sheer fear of their son being viewed as anything other than a meat-eating, football-throwing, deer-hunting, flirting-with-the-ladies Man's Man.

The Artist
You might as well ignore this kid, because she's going to ignore you and draw the whole time.

The Know-It-All
The Know-It-All starts our lineup of Smart Kids, though he's not necessarily smart. He likes to shout answers, touch things he's not supposed to touch, and not follow directions, all under the guise that He Knows Things. The Know-It-All is therefore the most likely person to break things. This trait is often combined with the Princess for a doubly deadly concoction.

The Supernerd

Contrary to the Know-It-All, the Supernerd really does know it all. These are the nerds, the geeks, the pint-sized supergeniuses who have nothing better to do than gain a spooky amount of knowledge in any given subject. Don't even try to outsmart her. You might as well let her teach the class, because you can't top her.

The Skeptic
Often combined with the Supernerd and the Know-It-All, the Skeptic is jaded and miserable. He's seen everything there is to see. Nothing is magical or impressive. He's prone to eye-rolling and cutting down your self-confidence at every turn. Favorite phrases include: "I have that," and "That's stupid," and "I know how that works already." Even better phrases include: "When are we going to have fun?" and "I'm bored," and "When do we get to go home?" I also like to call this child The Asshole.

The Comedian
Along with the Skeptic, the Comedian is the most likely to draw attention from you. The Comedian talks back, cracks jokes, throws things, doesn't follow directions, and generally gets everyone in the class (except for kids like the Supernerd) to think he's hilarious. The Comedian almost always has The Sidekick, who eggs him on but wouldn't actually contribute to anything himself were he alone.

The Invalid
You don't need to watch out for the Invalid. The parents will let you know. They will make it abundantly clear that their child is going to die and you're going to somehow kill them. These are kids with diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, peanut allergies, latex allergies... anything the parent will mark on the "health concerns" sheet. I once had a class where I wasn't told there was a kid with Asperger's but I WAS told there was a child with a "fear of monkeys." Go figure.

The Hypochondriac
This child doesn't suffer from any real threat. However, he or she will cry and sob and make you think he's dying until you realize he has a papercut, or he stubbed his toe. A subcategory of this is the Emotional Hypochondriac (the Crybaby). If something doesn't go his way, the waterworks are sure to follow.

The Weird One
This is essentially a wildcard category. The Weird One is someone who defies explanation. S/he is often somewhere along the Autism spectrum. (With how often I handle autistic children, "The Autistic One" ought to be a category.) The Weird One may not be autistic. S/he might be socially awkward, suffering from some other kind of issue, or just plain strange. They could be behavioral challenges but could also just be charmingly quirky. Their weirdness tends to draw the attention of other kids, whether or not there's a medical explanation of it. To kids, weird behavior is weird behavior, no matter what wacky name you give it. Remember a time when we used to think that way, too?


  1. Brilliant assessment. and too funny - a "fear of monkeys"???

  2. Seriously. A fear of monkeys. I've gotten "allergic to horses," too. I have also gotten "fear of balloons" but that's far more likely to come up in Mad Science, since we... deal with balloons.