Every child is unique, special and gifted.
No two students that you teach will ever be exactly the same. Sometimes this is hard to forget–like when 100% of the students master an exit ticket or when they all get excited about some of the same things. Kids can be very similar but never the same. Every child has some type of barrier to success, or many barriers to success.
I have spent six years working primarily with urban students, but students in rural or suburban schools have some of the same barriers. Some barriers may be more apparent than others.
Poverty: Poverty is a barrier that comes with many other challenges for students, families and teachers. Students affected by poverty can come into your classroom with a lot of needs. The best way to support students, no matter how much they may push back, is to create a structured classroom culture where they feel loved and accepted for who they are. This is not easy, but routines and structure help students know what to expect.
The best way to support students, no matter how much they may push back, is to create a structured classroom culture where they feel loved and accepted for who they are.
Self esteem and self concept: Having been a victim of bullying for many years of my childhood, I personally know how a damaged self esteem or negative self concept can derail a child. It can be really difficult to identify bullying, especially with social media and texting. Take the time to talk to your students one on one as often as possible. This is always a growing time and builds the relationship with that student, which, in turn, breaks down their barriers. They build a trust in you and you can then help them work through experiences and see their true potential.
Home life: Students in any setting can have a difficult home life. Parents fight, siblings can be mean, and some may have to worry about where their next meal comes from. Some students may not have a strong adult presence at home or at all in their life. Be that example to your students of how a successful adult acts, speaks, and lives.
School experiences: One negative school experience can take years for that student to overcome. The kids in your class are going to have teachers who aren’t going to be amazing fits for them. Do your best to be a good fit for each of your students in some way. Give opportunities to have positive experiences at school. Celebrate the student who finally gets a C on an exit ticket when they usually fail. Recognize the students who help someone or demonstrate good character. Academics aren’t going to be everyone’s best area, but every student can learn what it is to be a good person!
Relationships: Every student needs someone to trust and talk to. Give your students the ability to build relationships with each other, other teachers, you as their teacher, and other support people. Sometimes it is as easy as feeling like you can trust someone to start breaking down other barriers.
Learning disabilities: Some schools have the ability to do a lot to help students with learning disabilities. In my experience, I have had to do my best to accommodate learners of all different abilities and levels on my own. Find that student’s strengths and encourage those areas while building up the areas where they struggle. You will see progress!
You have the power to help to break down these barriers and give the students a bigger picture of success in their lives. What barriers do you see in your classroom or school, and how can you work to break them down?