Value each and every child in your classroom and school. Really. All of them.
Not just the cute ones…
Not just the funny ones…
Not just the well-behaved ones…
Not just the ones with supportive parents…
All of them.
Hopefully as educators, we went into this profession like superheros. Idealistic. Ready to swoop in and save every child from harm’s way. But how do you see yourself as an educator now? Is it like the super-educators in Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, and Dead Poets Society?
Teaching the teacher’s pet is easy. Almost anyone could walk into a classroom full of pleasers and hardworkers and look like a champ. What happens in your classroom when students struggle or are hard to reach?
What does it look like to really connect with ‘those kids’ in our schools? Remember, some of us were ‘those kids’ at one time. All kids have unique gifts and interesting personalities if you look for them. Here are some tips. Check how many you are already doing:
- Listen – Really listen. It’s called ‘active listening’ when you look, listen, and ask questions about what is being said. Take notes. Focus on them like there is no one else in the room.
- Include Preferred Activities – Ask students in person, through surveys, or inventories about what they like to do. Giving choice and movement are also other ways to address this.
- Give More Smiles Than Frowns – Does the student see more frowns and frustration or smiles and appreciation? I’ll bet most of these students feel that your smile is reserved for the ‘good kids.’ It’s not easy, but find a way to smile more to them and send positive vibes.
- Help Build Friendships – Many of these students don’t even have one friend in school. How lonely would that feel? Do your best to build friendships by matching interest and having students work together.
- Protect Students from Being Scapegoats – It is so easy for these students to become known as ‘the problem child.’ Everything that goes wrong then becomes tied to them. The rest of the class talk about these students with their parents as if it were TMZ. We must find ways to redirect and change the mindset of the students, especially if the at-risk students call the wrong kind of attention to themselves.
- Give a Specific Role – Just like all of us, students like to feel that they have a purpose and are needed. That they belong. Sometimes there is no better way of doing this than giving them a job in the school or classroom. It can be small, make something up if you have to. Make it feel important to them.
- Find Success – Help them be successful and you have them hooked! FIND ANY SUCCESSES THAT YOU CAN! If the child is struggling, create small goals and chart them so they can easily see their progress.
Soft cloth doesn’t refine and smooth, sandpaper does.
The students that are tough to teach are the ones that make us better.
They are why we went into this profession in the first place.
Next time you work with one of those students, thank them!