Friday, September 23, 2016

13 Things to Say to At-Risk (All) Students

     I read an Edutopia Twitter post telling me 13 things not to say to students. That got me thinking of things I try to say to students. Here is my list of 13 things you should say to students.

1. "I'm proud of you." Four words that can inspire students in ways we could never imagine. My students don't seem to be told someone is proud of them For them to hear an adult say that to them, well, it can work wonders for their confidence and determination to live up to those words.

2. "I trust you." Again, these are confidence building words for my demographic. Trust isn't something inherent in their world. They don't trust many and even fewer trust them. These are the kids who get followed in convenience stores or looked at sideways by most adults. Trust is something knew to them. But the words can't be empty. I have to show I trust them by doing just that. And you know what? I've rarely been let down.

3. "You've really shown improvement." When I go through papers with students, it's easy to point out the myriad of errors I see. What's harder is looking for the improvement. Even the smallest area they've  boosted deserves recognition by me. I can tell them about the areas needing work on later. Giving them a sense of achievement is imperative to keeping students motivated.

4. "You've done a terrific job." Students not only like to hear good things about themselves (even those who seem not to care) but they need to hear positive comments. Who doesn't like to know when you're doing a good job? Who doesn't need that lift that comes from knowing people are paying attention to the work you're doing? This is something everyone needs, not just at-risk students.

5. " I can tell you're trying you're best." Acknowledging the effort helps stave off frustrations that may build in students who struggle in your content area. Students need to know you understand their struggles and are there to help.

6. "You are a hard worker." I have one student who thrives when I tell him this. He prides himself on working hard. He may not always get the theme of the work right, but he works diligently to find it. Letting him know I see his effort just fuels him to continue to work hard.

7. "I appreciate your honesty." Let's face it: kids don't always tell the truth. That is one of my biggest pet peeves. So no matter what they tell me, as long as it's truthful, I tell them I appreciate their honesty. And for the most part, they respect that and stay true to that policy.

8. "I'm glad you're in my class." I told this to a student who recently returned from a group home to my class. I'd never had her before but at the end of the day today, I told her how happy I wa to have her in my class. "Really?" was her response. How many people have told students they are a positive addition to the teacher's classroom? Get them to believe it and they begin to act it.

9."Thank you for your efforts." Actually, I could end this one at "Thank you." So few of them know the soft skills needed to be successful in this society. By modeling good manners and appreciation for the work and effort someone has put into something, we are teaching students positive soft skills.

10 "I understand..." Beginning a sentence with those two words can defuse tense situations. But don't just say the words, believe them when you say them. Understand that life isn't always about school. Understand they may not have money for lunch or school supplies or laundry or gas. Understand that they may be helping to support their family with the job they're working after school and they don't have time to read your book or work on your paper. Just letting them know you understand and will work with them can relieve teens of a lot of pressure.

11. "You've got this." Struggling student trying to grasp a writing concept can easily become frustrated. By talking them through a paper and helping them organize their thoughts, you inspire confidence in them. Those three little words lets them know you believe in them.

12. "Please..." Again, I try to model good manners. I don't demand students something I ask and show appreciation when they do. Students are quick to pick this up and act accordingly.

13. "Tell me what you think." Often teachers will ask kids what they think, and then the teacher doesn't listen. Let them tell you. These are fledgling adults trying to understand what they do think. Allowing them to articulate their ideas to you, without interrupting or without commenting  on those thoughts shows active listening. Who doesn't want to be heard?

     Treat your students like you'd want to be treated. Talk to them the way you want to be talked to. It really can make all the difference. 

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