Part of your role as a teacher is to know your students well in order to be able to offer them enabling environments to learn and grow, and provide accurate assessment. There are many ways of getting to know your students such as observation and discussion, which when performed objectively will give you plenty of reliable information. It is a good idea to develop a set of assumptions about your students that might actually help you stay objective with your assessment and will support your planning for them.
Here are the things that your students might want you to know about them but may be too shy or afraid to share them with you direct:
I can do it but I need more time
Some students need more time to complete certain tasks than others. This is especially true for those who do not feel particularly strong in some areas while performing exceptionally in others. As a teacher you need to make sure that you do not judge your students for being weaker or needing more time to complete certain tasks or activities, and that you do not compare them to other students who feel stronger at these subjects, topics or tasks. It is highly unlikely that one person will be great at all subjects. They will usually be gifted or more excited about some specific subjects while not so much about others. But the point is that they should never feel sorry or bad about it. They just should be given more time and support to understand and complete their tasks.
I have other talents that I am happy to use
Similarly, your students should never feel bad about or guilty for not being good at something that other students are better at because this may negatively affect their confidence. Additionally, they may not be so willing to participate in certain activities due to fear of being criticised, rejected or not appreciated. Whilst they certainly have other talents they would be happy to use, the very fact that they are never asked to do so or offered opportunities to demonstrate and use their skill might be emotionally disturbing for them.
I find it hard to sit still
Don’t expect your students to sit still for longer periods of time, and definitely don’t expect all your students to be able to do so. Children of all ages are active by nature and need dynamically changing environments they can tune into. Some children, however, need more movement than others and asking them to be still and concentrate is a task way beyond their present capacity and will power. Make sure you offer your students enough space and time to move around by organising activities that do not require them to sit still such as team work, experiential learning, project work, etc. Keep study or reading sessions frequent but short, and offer individual students extra support.
I ‘m really tired and I need a break now
When you are tired you can’t do much about it, and your students feel exactly the same. Consider it and instead of putting too much emphasis or pressure on completing tasks and activities to cover your intended topic, be flexible and sensitive towards the way your students feel. The more tired they are, the lower their performance becomes. Offer refreshing breaks, introduce more dynamics and student-led activities.
I learn better when I touch things
Not everyone learns the same way. In fact, we all differ in the way we learn best. This means that offering the same method of teaching to all your students will not help them all in the same way. This is usually one of the reasons why some student might underperform or seem not to understand what you are trying to teach. Make sure that you offer variety of ways to present your content, and that you cater for everyone’s needs and preferences. It is always a good idea to plan activities that appeal to senses of touch, vision and hearing. Offer plenty of hands-on learning opportunities as often as you can.
Your positive feedback really motivates me
Even when some of your students do not perform as well as you would expect them to, finding something positive about their work will always motivate them to try harder, and it will boost their confidence too. Try to focus on individual students and avoid comparing them to others.
I don’t remember it now but it doesn’t mean I don’t know it
The fact that some of your students are not able to give you the right answers on the spot does not necessarily mean that they do not know them at all. They might have forgotten the answers having so many other things to remember, or they might not feel well on that day or even feel under pressure and they simply forgot. The way you elicit answers from your students matters a lot, and having to retrieve it in front of everyone is definitely not the friendliest way to do it. Giving your students more time and space, and letting them show you the best ways that work for them will definitely bring better results.
I’m not disruptive, I just need more attention
Disruptive behaviour does not always mean your students want to intentionally ruin your lesson. You should never blame your students for misbehaviour but rather investigate the true reasons behind it. Disruptive behaviour might be the reaction to your teaching style which might not offer your students enough time, space and tools to engage and express themselves. It may also be related to students’ individual issues such as low self esteem, emotional problems, abuse at school or at home, too much stress, learning delays or difficulties, etc. For underperforming students who hardly ever receive positive feedback from teachers misbehaviour might be the only way they know to attract their attention.
There is always a reasonable explanation for your students’ performance. The best way is to try to become more sensitive to their needs and understand your students as individuals without judging them on the basis of their behaviour.