Anitre Bell teaches College Success and Study Skills at Community College of Beaver County
Do you have any students who barely say anything? These students attend every class. They are there, but are they present?
Sometimes as educators, we see these students and allow them the status quo. They enter the room and are quiet, and they do their work. Why should I “bother” them? They barely participate and are deemed unreachable, so why try?
Why not attempt? Educators have the amazing opportunity to develop positive, encouraging and professional relationships with these very students.
This post will describe strategies that I use to build connections with students who display unreachable characteristics. Often the student is not unreachable—one just has to tap into their power source.
Strategy One: Energy
I’m a firm believer that an individual’s energy level plays a role in how they respond to things. If a student does not feel a connection with you, they are more likely to shy away from any classroom or personal interaction.
Your excitement for the subject matter plays a role in how and what students learn. The energy used to celebrate them, their accomplishments and your response plays a role. One strategy would be in how you enter the class, your interactions with the class and—most importantly—how you control the classroom. Energy is contagious, so bring the energy you want the students to exhibit too.
Strategy Two: Easing Fear
Here, I don’t mean the fear of people, but fear of the challenge or surroundings. One way to help ease that fear is by creating and cultivating a safe learning environment for students.
If the student feels comfortable, encouraged and seen, they’ll open up—slowly, but surely. This learning environment has to show compassion and understanding to all. This particular student is watching how you respond to their peers to determine if they want to be vulnerable in the situation.
We must create a space for teacher and student vulnerability, while still commanding the classroom. One strategy would be to learn a student’s name. Doing this shows that you are interested, and that you value and respect who they are. This simple gesture means so much! It eases some of their fears because they feel included in the class.
Strategy Three: Communication
We cannot be afraid to talk to our students. We must learn their likes and dislikes—even a little background information will help. We must create purposeful teacher/student and student/student interactions, while noticing the classroom climate. We must be comfortable pushing our students while showing concern and compassion.
Many factors contribute to an unreachable student—and though we try, as educators, we won’t be able to reach every student. Our goal is to determine why, how we can spark an interest of some sort, what they need from us and what we can do. We must teach the key to life, and that means we must teach with our hearts.
You can be the reason why students decide to stay in school and graduate. I want all students to find a new life in my classroom and see why learning is important and fun and—most importantly—that I care!
Looking for more tips for reaching hard-to-reach students? Check out our Empowered Educator event covering culturally responsive teaching, instructor self-care, student perspectives on online learning and more!