We have all had ‘the’ student that every teacher dreads to get, based on their ‘reputation’ or their file from a previous school. These students are the underdogs of the education system.
Most often all they need is someone to believe in them. It takes time and a great deal of effort but the payoff for the student, the classroom and yourself can be huge.
After a career of 27 years, I can compile a long list of these students with a few who really stand out at the top of the list.
Often these students come to you with layers and layers of hurt, rejection, anger, frustration, and low self esteem.
Trying to peel off these layers to reach into the core of that student can be exhausting. It takes patience, understanding, compassion and determination.
The biggest key to reaching through these students is letting them know that you believe they are capable. Capable of: learning, socializing appropriately, and being respectful of others and oneself.
Tell them you will never ask them to do anything you feel they are not capable of. Your expectations of the student must be realistic and attainable.
The student must now slowly begin to believe this himself with your help.
Meet quietly with the student one on one and ask them if they could change something about their experience in your classroom that would make it a better place for them, what would that be.
This is the starting place.
Take time out each day to talk with this student to see how things are going in the area he has chosen to improve.
Use small moments throughout the day to provide encouragement and feedback. When there is a problem, meet with the student privately to discuss why they feel the problem occurred and try to reset the day.
When you feel the student is ready, discuss another area they feel they would like to see improved. If the student feels he has not improved, revisit it with him and try to determine why together and discuss some tools which might help him.
These students need to feel valued. When time is set aside just for them, no matter how short the duration is, they will begin to feel valued.
Often the smallest of encounters with a student can make a difference. They need to feel you are on their team.
Once they begin to feel better about themselves, improved classroom behavior and overall social interaction will gradually begin to happen and more learning will occur.
There will be setbacks but remember; two steps forward, one step back is still progress.