Saturday, January 9, 2016

Teaching Problem Students

Maybe I've been reading too much Brené Brown, but I'm going to dedicate this year to articulating my vulnerabilities.  Recently I've been thinking about what keeps me up at night.  As a teacher, what keeps me up most is when a student is not thriving or succeeding in my class.  My common go-to thought is, "I must not be enough."  I gently put that aside, awaken my curiosity around the students and situation, and see what I can bring to the equation that may evolve the situation in the direction of success. 

Allow me to introduce one of my undergraduate students who I will call "Jane."  Jane loved the teacher who instructed last year who had a totally different focus on the material.  That happens.  The student felt very loyal to that teacher.  I'm not sure where else she and I have challenges, but she stated that she doesn't believe I can teach her anything, which is a little mind boggling, especially since we've already spent a semester together.  Ego aside, I've been teaching a long time and this sort of problem has never occurred in my class - especially when I'm teaching majors.  This is usually when I have my biggest awareness epiphany's, in the face of challenge.  What I find interesting is this student also failed to complete substantial amounts of homework required of the class, which is no coincidence.  So is this blame game an attempt to assuage her guilt at not committing to the class or might she simply dislike the material... or me?  I'm always looking for logic.  I'm not into taking these challenges personally, but it's hard not to do so. 

Sometimes, as a teacher, the answer after you've exhausted all teaching angles is, "this student is not interested in engaging in this class for whatever reason."  That is a last resort thought for me.  Plus, there's always a reason the student does not want to engage.  However, discovering what is holding the student back can shed light on a multitude of blocks the student may have, which will allow the student to soar in her academics as well as in her life.  Most important, teaching requires both parties to engage.  If a student chooses not to, I have little recourse other than a grade reflection, which is lame.  Learning isn't happening.  Well, not the learning I have in mind anyway.

I'm not the perfect teacher for everyone, that's not possible.  So 2% of all of my students who do not connect to what or how I teach is a pretty good average.  Sadly, that doesn't salve me.  Logic doesn't ease my heart when spreading love of acting is what drives me.  I don't even care if a students does not have enthusiasm for the material, the assignments still have to be done.  Engaging is required of adults who do more than survive in the world.  Clearly, I'm more than a survivor.  Can I lead by example and hope that's enough?  We will find out.

Copyright 2016 Heather Corwin

No comments:

Post a Comment