Do you ever feel like you can do nothing right? Does a person ever make you feel that way? It is awful. Defeating. I want to just crawl into bed and give up. I want to run away. I will escape, avoid, flee. Whatever my tactic, I don’t want to feel like I am incapable.
Imagine a student with a learning disability or an inattentive, hyperactive tendency. Diagnosis or not. That student plopped down into a modern day classroom for the No Child Left Behind Era feels like that minute to minute. They are tested and retested, they are required to move at legislated pacing guides, and are required to perform tasks that demonstrate growth so their teacher can say they aren’t useless. The lessons become less engaged, they are seated and spoken to, they are inundated with dry learning. And they struggle. Daily. Minute by minute in that environment. What they need, isn’t being offered, because teachers are being legislated to show scores versus teaching quality teaching strategies.
What happens when a student feels like they can do nothing right? When every moment isn’t a possibility for success, but of failure. When they are constantly being told what to do, how to do it, and then woops, you didn’t do it well enough? They shut down. They too want to crawl into bed and give up. They want to run away. They will escape, avoid, flee. Whatever their tactic, that’s where they go.
As educators, we see it all the time. It may be so prevalent one may not even see it. They are the quietly withdrawn hiding and slinking further away from success. Or they are the defiant and active student externalizing the feeling of failure and looking for the system to discipline them out. All escape artists.
We cannot change the system today, but we can change how our students feel.
- Let them know the system doesn’t teach to all students and they are not alone.
- Let them know the real world doesn’t expect the same skill set that the NCLB classroom does.
- Praise their behaviors. Praise their successes, even when they look differently than peers, they are valid and they are successful.
- Offer them alternatives to paper and pencil. Take two minutes to hear about their interests. Then use that in class. Even if its simple, it validates they matter.
- Tell them you understand. Tell them you once felt that way too. Tell them, its not a feeling they have to take. They can stand up and look that feeling in the eye and say, “You know what? So what school isn’t my thing right now. It might be tomorrow, it might be never. But I know I am valuable, and finishing school is just as valuable.”
- Whatever you do, make the effort to counter the effects of the modern day classroom and that feeling students often have when they don’t live up to the standards. They are enough, and they are worthy.