Archive | October 2015

Cheer For The Underdog! Two Steps Forward, One Step Back!

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.


The Quiet Ones

We have all had our share of boisterous students and usually remember the most challenging students.

But, do we remember the quiet ones.

We often have to think hard to recall them.

It is very easy for them to get lost in the hubbub of the classroom and school environment.

There can be many reasons for their silence.

What we need to understand is that shyness is a combination of emotions.

It can stem from fear, tension, apprehension and embarrassment.

These students need a teacher’s help to find their voice in the classroom.

Talking quietly one on one with the student to get to know them better is a great place to start.

It can be amazing what you find out about these quiet ones.

These are some strategies you can use to help these students.

Group Area

These quiet ones tend to sit at the back of the group and usually don’t have a ‘go to’ person to sit beside.

Talk to them privately and ask them to sit closer to the front.

Seating Arrangement

Meet with this student and ask them to name 3 people they think they would like to get to know better and have their desk placed beside.

Discretely make some seating changes to enable this student to sit beside one of their choices.

Partner or Group Work

When you are pairing students up to work together, try to pair them up with someone they have indicated on their list.

When students are asked to select a partner, allow this student to have one of the first picks when selecting their partner.

Goal Setting

Meet with this student to discuss a starting goal for the number of times they raise their hand and speak up in front of the class.

Prepare a simple chart for each day.

They can keep this at their desk and have them check off daily how many times they raised their hand and participated orally in the class.

Ensure the student understands that these are only goals and they can be readjusted if necessary depending on the success of the goal setting.

Point out to the student that their progress may only be seen in very small steps but celebrate any progress which will help them take positive risks and overcome obstacles.

Recess/Break Time

Recess or break time can be a lonely time for these students.

There may also be another student you know who does not have a friend to play with, or socialize with and they could be paired up together.


Meet with the student briefly before a lesson or discussion and give them some time to prepare an answer, opinion or question to contribute during the lesson.

Practice/Role Play

If the student is willing, have the student rehearse with a peer what they would like to say to the class during a lesson.

You can also teach them socialization skills by conducting a lesson in the classroom on how to join a group and how to accept a new member in a group.

Class Climate

You will want to promote inclusion and the acceptance of others in your classroom to create a safe environment for all.

The differences we see in each other should be celebrated and valued.

Shy students will slowly begin to feel they can contribute in their own way without judgement or embarrassment.

Classroom Jobs

Give shy students a job to do in the classroom such as handing out supplies or collecting materials.

A job will help them further develop their social skills through the interaction with their peers and boost their confidence.

Wait Time

Shy students often need a longer wait time for a response when they are called upon to participate orally.

The waiting can seem like an eternity but they most often will respond if given the time to do so.

Final Thoughts

All of the strategies mentioned are ways to help shy students become more confident and social; however, it all depends on the dynamics of your classroom and most importantly, your students.

It also starts with you, the teacher, to help these quiet ones find their voices in the classroom.

If you have not done so, please feel free to sign up for email notifications or click the follow button for the weekly posts.  I’d also love to hear from you about the post or strategies you have tried in your classroom.

Happy Teacher…Happy Students; Happy Students…Happy Teacher!

All teachers know that teaching is both a rewarding and challenging career.  Being responsible for the development of growing minds is a huge responsibility.

It’s an all consuming job which requires teachers to be ‘on their game’ every minute of the day. However, when a teacher’s ‘game is off’, for whatever reason, things in the classroom can unravel quickly or gradually depending on the root and severity of the problem.

Teachers need to ensure they are taking care of themselves in every aspect of their lives.  This is a challenge since teachers tend to put themselves at the bottom of their To Do list.  You need to start moving your needs up the priority list. The caring for and nurturing of your physical, psychological, nutritional and professional well being is essential.

Teachers and students alike have a desire to be respected, honoured and valued.  This desire, despite the behaviors and problems witnessed and felt by teachers and students around the world, is a basic human need.  With so many pressures today on the family unit along with the changing faces of the family and society as a whole, teachers need to create a climate within the classroom which embodies mutual respect, honour and value. This, in itself, is a huge challenge.  When teachers slowly begin to prioritize some of their own needs, it becomes possible to begin to meet more of the needs of their students.

Teachers’ roles are changing rapidly and are often moving far beyond the curriculum.  Teachers are experiencing unprecedented pressures today in the classroom from forces not felt before in the near and distant past. This makes it even more imperative that they ensure they are caring for themselves to give them the strength and stamina needed to help their students.

Start meeting more of your own basic needs before trying to create this positive climate within your classroom. Choose one thing each day to help you work towards improving your own well being.  You will then be able to gradually pass this calm and inner peace along to your students and they will subsequently begin to pass it back onto you.  It will, and can be passed back and forth to carry and sustain you both throughout the school year. 

Your own well being is where it all starts!

Happy Teacher…Happy Students;Happy Students…Happy Teacher

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