EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Jennifer Little, Ph.D. Little has specialized in teaching challenging pre-K to grade 12 students. Her business, Parents Teach Kids, changes the lives of children and their parents.
Many teachers have faced the professional challenge of a classroom full of high-need students. These young people may face multiple difficulties such as drug and alcohol use, low reading skills, learning disabilities, disciplinary problems and personality conflicts with teachers.
This was the case in one of my 11th-grade classes in my first year of teaching high school English. Needless to say, Shakespeare was not high on students’ list of priorities. Learning how to manage the classroom and teach these young people was my top priority.
I didn’t learn how to help them that year, nor over the next few years of having similar students in my classes. It took a graduate program of theories in special education, almost 10 years of practical experience working exclusively with those excluded from general education classrooms, and two years of teaching graduate students in education before I could say I enjoyed working with challenging students.
Many teachers quit within five years if they have too many high-need students. I stayed, because I was learning from every one of them. They taught me about their challenges and how I could help them succeed.
Here are some of my key takeaways:
We need to begin to see difficult students as first and foremost, students. They are challenging because they have experienced failure in schools for many years, and because sometimes we who are responsible for teaching them don’t know how to do so effectively. Only when we admit that we need to improve our skills—and that students can help us—can we begin to help them succeed.
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