Can We Reach Every Student?

1018049_handprint_of_loveI believe that every teacher has the potential to reach out and impact the life of every student they have in their class. The key is that it takes a whole lot of dedicated attention and effort.

My theory is that it is relativaly easy to positively impact about 60% of the kids in each of our classes. The challenge comes from two types of kids.

  1. The “trouble makers”
  2. The “quiet kids”

What are some of the most effective techniques you have found to reach these?

Instead of going about my normal routine of listing ways that I think it is possible to reach students, I want to open up discussion here. I have started it off with the first comment…

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

6 Comments on Can We Reach Every Student?

  1. (1) It’s obviously very easy to totally turn off the “trouble makers” by yelling at them and arguing with them. I believe that establish clear, consistent, and fair expectations can positively impact these kids more than we ever imagine. If they feel safe in our class, they will be most likely to enjoy coming there and we will notice that in less and less destructive behaviors…

    (2) I have the most difficulty with even remembering to connect with the really quiet ones. I was one in school. I can think of a small number of teachers throughout my secondary schooling who made an effort to reach out to me. These are the kids who won’t do the reaching out, but they still crave attention all the same.

    + So what other ideas do we have about connecting with these kids?
    + What about the rest of them?
    + What are some of your most effective strategies for making sure you get to them all?

  2. 1 – I don’t neccessarily think it’s fruitful to yell at the troublemakers. I’ve had some success with the following approach:

    Get the miscreant alone for a couple of minutes, preferably just while walking to and fro, but can be done by just taking them out into the hallway. This should be during a calm period, since having a heart to heart is difficult while tempers are still up.
    I try to find some common ground with the kid, and establish a feeling of common purpose by touching on what I percieve to be their difficulty. I make an effort not to judge the kid’s feelings, and ask if they’ve noticed that the other children/I/etc. don’t like it when they behave like that. Usually they have noticed themselves, but have no idea how to stop.
    I then make a little deal with them, f.ex. to count to ten every time they feel like lashing out. I also try to let them know that I like THEM, even though their DEEDS sometimes dissappoint me.

  3. I have lower elementary, so the opportunities for conversational/relational outreach is limited. I use lunch duty as a way to connect (admire something in their lunch or urge them to eat the protein portion of the school lunch)There’s no pressure & all can be “real” with one another. You can reach both kinds of challenging kids that way. If your student-teacher ratio isn’t too high on the playground, you can play a little bit at recesses with them too. I am famous for admiring cool action figures & other toys brought to school for recess. That’s one of the best ways I’ve found to bond with a kid -express an interest in their precious stuff.

  4. @Clix – Point well-taken. It seems to be a matter of semantics here. I think it’s important to have an emotional connection, even if just for a split second with every student in my class. It rarely happens with some of the kids, but the challenge is to love the unlovable ones.

  5. No, sorry, its not possible to reach every kid. But you are right to say that teachers have the potential to impact the lives of each student. Some new teachers become despondent because a certain kid has not been reached. Sometimes, even if the teacher is "perfect" a kid will chose not to be reached. That having said, it is possible to reach most kids and not giving up on any one kid because "he/she is impossible" is a must. It is never possible to *know* that you can't reach a kid.

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