When you look at your poorest student, what do you see? An obstruction to your progress? Or an opportunity to be great?
Teaching struggling students may be the number one headache for teachers. Whenever you teach something in class, everyone gets it except that one (or more) student. “Why don’t you just get it,” we say, “the whole class understands, just you.”
Many teachers soon abandon this kind of students and just move on with others. But perhaps, the problem is not them. Perhaps, the problem is you.
Let me tell you a story. Something very intriguing once happened in a school. Two different lists of students were sent to class teachers. One list was labelled very dull and the other was labelled excellent. On getting to the class teachers, the list got mixed up and the class of excellent students was labelled dull, while the dull students’ class was labelled excellent.
The school term began and teachers were distributed to each class, using the mixed-up lists. Teachers sent to the truly excellent students, who were mistakenly labelled dull, viewed the students has numbskulls and treated them that way.
Those sent to the truly dull students, mistakenly labelled excellent, viewed and treated the students as excellent students.
At the end of the term when results were out, something astonishing happened. The truly dull students had performed significantly better than they used to. And the truly excellent students? Well, their performance plummeted significantly. “How is this even possible?”, you may ask.
When they finally got to know about the mistake, the school management was puzzled by the sharp changes in performance of the two classes. But the teachers weren’t. They could explain clearly why the results were that way.
The teachers sent to the falsely dull class taught the students in a dull way. Throughout the term, they viewed the students as dull and bound to fail. Despite that the students were truly excellent, the students’ performance decreased because they’ve been trained as dull students. What about those sent to the falsely excellent class? The teachers taught them as they would teach truly excellent students; and when they found out that they were having trouble understanding the concepts, they looked for ways to help them understand since they were “excellent”
If one thing is highlighted from that incident, it is that every kid can become excellent–with the right training
The long-standing argument about “who should be blamed for the failure of students” should be dumped. It makes learning seem like an activity that depends on only one person.
The teachers assigned to the falsely excellent class gave their all because they felt they were teaching excellent students, so the students’ failure only depicts the teachers’ ineffectiveness. Because the teachers gave their all, the students were motivated to learn and also give their all.
As a teacher, if you look at your truly dull students as dull, you will end up promoting their dullness. But if you see your truly dull students as potentially excellent students, you will work to make them better. So, when you see your poorest student, that’s an opportunity to build a champion.
Written by: Al-ameen Odunayo Abolare