The Teaching Superpower – Connecting with the Tough Student(s)

November 16, 2018

The complexity of teaching is rising. More kids in the classroom, changing curriculum(s), parent challenges in raising resilient children, and little pay. I propose that teachers are amongst the most influencial people in our child’s life. Responsible for providing a solid education, we rely on them to be the stewards of foundational learning in the hours our children are at school. But not all students are responding to our teachers in the way we want and need them to and hence there are children who are managing well in their classroom settings and others who struggle.

The reality is that there are students that will be ‘easy’ for our teachers to teach and those that are not. It’s human nature to connect and therefore contribute more ‘positive attention’ to the students who we define as ‘easy’. It’s human nature to shy away from those that are in the ‘more difficult’ category.

The question is, ‘why’ are some students more difficult? A complex question and very much dependent on the child and the situation. However, if we really are connecting and making the attempt to ‘understand’ the child, then maybe we start to see the ‘difficulty’ diminishing.

This article on “How ‘That Kid’ Needs One Adult To Look At Them Differently” outlines 3 great points.        I’d like to expand further as to the importance of taking the time to consciously understand and unconver the basic needs of the students in a classroom – how they differ or reflect the needs of the teacher (and/or parent). The more we understand and have the tools to navigate our audiences, the better the ability to ‘flex’ our style to those who are different, and just maybe the more engaged we experience our students and children to be.

1. Actively work to appreciate each student.

Easier said than done. But what understanding do you have of how each child in your classroom (or home) ‘ticks’? What are their basic needs? How do they differ from yours, the teacher (or the parent)? What information does that understanding give you in how best to connect? Who are the Panda’s, Dolphin’s, Lion’s and Owl’s in your class and/or home?

2. Put yourself in this child’s shoes for one whole day.

We’re short on time. We are multitasking constantly and so the thought of stepping in to another pair of shoes for a period of time may be overwhelming. And yet the power that comes with true understanding can create an appreciation for who, what, how and why a child engages (or not). If you’ve clicked through to the link above, you’ll see that behavior comes in different forms. Take the time to think about your preferred behavior style combination. What might be the style(s) of some of the ‘more difficult’ children you encounter or the families members you live with? How might you reconsider your approach to that child? Emotional intelligence is the key to understanding the perspective of others’. We want to model its practice for the children we are raising and influencing. It’s like exercising a muscle that hasn’t been worked out it a while. Give it a go, see what happens…


3. Constant communication about the “student’ is key.

Like students, there are parents who are ‘easy’ to connect and communicate with and those that are not. And no one wants to be the bearer of bad news and communicate to a parent that their child is struggling – in whatever capacity that might be. But the more we initiate connection and triangulate between teacher, parent and student, then the better the the outcome and quality of support. Using a language that you’re all familiar with and one that supports the needs of the child is a strategic and non-personal/non-confrontational way to engage your parent audience. Is the child in your classroom a Lion, Panda, Dolphin or Owl? What is your style? What is that of the parent? Use the behavior styles to your advantage. Use it to breakdown the wall(s) between differences of opinions and instead, go straight to the heart of the matter – what is the ‘need’ of the child and how do you all best work together to meet it.

Small steps can lead to great discoveries. Time invested on the front end of your relationship with your student/child can make room for great strides on the other. What have you got to loose?