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Reaching the Unreachable Students

By on November 22, 2016 in Education with 0 Comments

As an educator, you have encountered students that have been labelled unreachable. The pressures of reaching student achievement outcomes coupled with the time constraints of the school day lead some students, that are resistant to learning and defiant to authority, to be left behind. As you proceed through graduate level education courses, and begin to take a leadership role in your school community, it is essential that you share these and other strategies for reaching these unreachable students with your colleagues.

  • Relate to the student on some level.

The most basic thing that you can do to reach a problem student is to find something you and the student can discuss that the student enjoys and in which you are knowledgeable. From a sports team to a TV show, finding common ground between yourself and the student shows the student that you are capable of carrying on a conversation and that it may be worthwhile to establish some sort of relationship with you even if only conversational in the beginning. The goal is to eventually translate this one point of commonality into a deeper relationship.

  • Meet them where they are.

You will have to change your expectations of the student. This doesn’t mean that you are going to lower your academic expectations for the student, it means that, initially, you may have to show the student that you are willing to accept what they are willing to give. For example, if a student is willing to write the name of his favorite basketball player and one sentence about him instead of the one-page essay he was assigned, you should accept it. Provide detailed feedback on the one sentence, including grammar corrections and content suggestions, just as you did on his classmates’ full page essays. Recognizing that for some students a willingness to even pick up a pencil is sometimes difficult for educators to understand.  However, as you build a relationship with the student, you can identify when it is appropriate to push for more and when you need to back off.

  • Show interest in their future.

Ask the student about their goals. Ask them about their day. Help them meet a goal in another class. When they realize that you are advocating on their behalf and that you care about what happens to them, they may be seeing this type of behavior from an adult for the first time. Sadly, some students have never had a positive relationship with an adult. They may be suspicious at first, and it may take them time to trust you.

  • Express disappointment in their behavior, not in them.

When the child misbehaves or fails to meet an expectation that you are confident they could have, do not hesitate to express your disappointment. You should make sure that the child experiences negative consequences. However, ensure that you clearly express that the disappointment is directed at their behavior and not at them personally. Ensure that they know you believe they are capable of better and help them work through how they could have better handled the situation.

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