Struggling Students?

Some students struggle.  They struggle for many, many reasons.  Some have difficulty following classroom routines, understanding directions and comprehending text.  Others have difficulty attending--their minds are elsewhere, and some feel really bad about themselves and have a tough time learning due to their low self concept.

Usually on the first day of school teachers can quickly identify those that struggle.  Strugglers' affect, behavior and response provide ready clues as to their ability and mindset related to classroom success.

The goal is to boost esteem, strengthen mindset and create paths to academic success for these students, and the challenge lies in how we do that.

First, every educator has to have the attitude that every child is capable of success and learning.  Our job is to teach all children, and not to choose some over others.  Hence we have to collaborate to meet all needs in effective ways.

Next, we have to assess and prioritize.  Why is a child struggling?  What can we do to make learning accessible to this child?  How are we going to manage our energy, expertise, time and endeavor to teach every child in responsive, targeted ways?

Then we have to enlist the family's support and help.  We have to get to know the child's family and understand their concerns and ability to support the child.  We may have to look to outside agencies for further support related to counseling, after school programs and health issues if necessary. Most schools don't have social workers at this time, and many students are unable to access learning due to social-emotional issues.  Similar to individualized education plans for learning disabilities, I believe it may be time in our culture to institute individualized support plans related to social/emotional/health concerns, concerns that greatly impact a child's ability to learn and succeed in school.

After that, we have to monitor.  What are the targets?  Are we making progress?  How do we know we are making progress?  How can we revise and finesse the program and goals so that we make greater progress? At times, these complex learners receive a diluted program since they are pulled in so many directions to receive mandated therapies and support.  How can we streamline, focus and target their programs so that specific educators, not just the classroom teacher, are responsible for their progress, feedback and response?  Many professionals work in a school, but only a few are responsible for student/family feedback and scores.  How can we broaden this responsibility and effort across all parts of school life?

Finally, similar to an "emergency room" in a hospital, we have to have a process in place for our students that continually don't achieve and fall behind their peers.  These are the "tier three students" in RTI.  What does your school and community do for these students?  What is the sense of urgency and response?  We know that educational success correlates in many was to success in life, hence how can we identify these students as early as possible and make a difference for them?

No teacher likes to see a child struggle.  We want all of our students to succeed with confidence and happiness, yet every year we are met with children who struggle.  It's up to us as collaborative members of a school culture to work towards building systems and strategies to help these young children--that's the greatest challenge we face as educators.

How does your school respond to struggling students?  What are your success stories?  What are the programs, approaches and efforts that reap rewards when it comes to teaching the "hardest to teach" students?  The potential is there to help every child reap success and achievement in schools, but we still have room for growth when it comes to meeting this potential.
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