5 Tips For Helping Troubled Students Succeed
contributed by Anne Davis
An educator’s job is to ensure that each of their students gets the best possible learning experience.
It is also their responsibility to ensure that their students are evolving and performing to the best of their abilities academically. In order to be successful at either of these things, however, teachers must not solely be focused on homework assignments and test scores, but the emotional and behavioral health of each child.
Should a child in your classroom start lashing out, getting violent, isolating themselves, or otherwise acting out of character, to ignore the signs would only create a larger problem down the road.
Though it may be difficult or even uncomfortable at times to bring up touchy subjects with your students, their families, or other faculty, sometimes it is necessary to ensure a student gets the help that they need to succeed.
1. Build on gifts and strengths
In No Student Is Unreachable, Jeffrey Benson said that when dealing with challenging students, we should “Spend as much time describing what the child can do as what the child can’t do,” explaining:
I suggest literally using a timer. The disability concerns tend to come with troubling stories; the ability side of the ledger tends to be a less-emotional list; e.g. “She likes to draw.” What does she draw? When does she draw? Has anyone talked to her about her drawing? What sort of skills does her drawing demonstrate? Does anyone see anything else the child likes to do or shows an interest in?
2. Be Proactive
There is an increasing number of reports in the news of teenagers who are victims of abuse at home, abusing substances, suffering from mental illness, and sadly, ending their lives too soon. Rather than waiting to have to counsel your students through some unfortunate event one of their peers encountered, teachers should be proactive.
Here’s what being proactive looks like:
3. Understand the potential signs.
Teachers spend a better part of the day with their students. Before long, you pick up on their personalities, performance potential, emotional and behavioral activities. This should essentially be used as a basis or starting point for recognizing when a student may be going through something.
Though there is minimal training provided within public and private educational systems on such matters, there are a wealth of reliable sources easily accessible through the internet. Sites like Georgia Drug Detox Center can inform you of substance abuse statistics, signs of substance abuse, and practical steps to take to get help for your students.
There are resources like KidsHealth.org that provides advice for kids, teens, parents, and educators on topics including emotional, physical, and behavioral health. You can utilize such a resource to learn how to deal with bullying, learning disabilities, emotional problems, and more.
4. Know the family.
When parents and teachers come together to ensure each student succeeds the experience is a lot richer. Though each familial circumstance is different it is imperative for teachers to do what they can to get to know not only their students, but their families as well.
The more of a connection you have with the family the easier it is for you to be proactive and speak up if you notice something going on with a student. It also makes it easier for you to work together in the classroom and at home to help the student get back on track.
Teachers should be making weekly or evenly monthly house calls, sending out regular emails, inviting families to school events, and perhaps even volunteering or attending community events where parents are present.
5. Know the student first as a person, then as a student.
You cannot begin to educate, let alone help your students efficiently if you don’t first get to know who they are. This goes beyond understanding them as learners and essentially means getting to know them as people. They’re more than who they are in the classroom and it is imperative that you learn this side of them.
When teachers know their students it breaks down barriers and creates a strong bond. Students feel comfortable opening up about what’s going on at home if they’re having a difficult time with a subject or a classmate, and anything else they may be experiencing.
Getting to know your students can happen most easily by being open, honest, and interested. Talk with them about life, their personal interests, things going on in the news, your interests, and listen to their stories. Essentially, this engages them.
If you look at some of the statistics of troubled students in the country today the numbers would shock you. There is an alarming number of children out there who are in need of help in one way or another, but, for some reason aren’t getting it.
As an educator, the only way you can ensure that each student is given the best opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in life is to do more. Knowing the signs, the family, and the students provide you with all you need to reach out and help in troubled times.