We all have one– or at least one– the kid that keeps us up at night. The one that brings us on an emotional roller coaster all year. The one that, despite all our best efforts, cannot participate in class the way we expect them to. So, what do we do with these little loves? Although there’s no one size fits all method, we can implement some methods in our circles which allow these students to find their footing in the classroom.
Take time away from group tasks to get to know one another. Different pairings and groupings give our students the opportunity to interact socially with everyone in class, including us! Adding questions to your sequences that allow the students to express their own interest or relevancy in a theme not only brings on more language, but let’s us all to really understand one another.
Assume that those tricky behaviors our student is exhibiting is for a reason. And that it probably has nothing to do with you. We teachers have a tricky way of taking the blame for every failure that occurs in our classroom. Thankfully, when we have a classroom of equity and respect, we do not have that much power. Our students have lives (and probably complicated ones) outside of our classroom, and those burdens and emotions that they carry trickle into our rooms. It’s ok if a student just needs some time to breathe and regroup in class. Your ability to recognize their need, and not take personal ownership of their emotions will build a trust in your classroom that cannot be replaced.
Tell your students what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. Far too often, we make decisions for our classroom without really sharing why with our students. If we give our students the opportunity to listen to our thoughts or processes, and to share our emotions behind them- they will look at us with a greater understanding and respect.
Set ground rules, and use them to point out inappropriate behaviors with positivity. In the OWL classroom the classroom ground rules are clear and simple: respect, participate, and 100% target language. When a student fails to follow through with one piece of the rules, we need to call them on their behavior without reprimanding them. Once we say “no English” once, we’ve invited English into our classroom. Positive speech allows our students to recognize their shortcomings, but feel that we believe in them. Ask them what the rules are, remind them they can speak in the L2, and ask the group what we can do instead of a certain behavior.
Support your student. Volunteer to help them out if they need it, be flexible, and provide support! Students who tend to act out in class need us to be the steady hand in the classroom. Being steady in our support, even when they refuse to take it, demonstrates to your student that you are there for them and their growth.
Validate member’s contributions- let them feel valued! If you have a kid that says they hate your class, but they are showing up everyday, take that as a victory! Thank them for coming to class, for trying to participate, for passing out the paper. Remember, they could be wandering the halls and making your life a whole different level of crazy.
Respect individuality and different perspectives by listening. Our students all come from different families, upbringings, and situations; and they all have different opinions, likes, or perspectives on experiences. Being a model for listening- without immediate response or our own opinion- demonstrates to our students what being a responsible member of a community means. When we give them an opportunity to be accepted for who they are, they just might change their own perspective on our classroom.
Take a breath, look at that kiddo, and find just one positive thing that you can see in them. Let that one thing be a guiding path to camaraderie and possibility for you and that student.