Learners with Gaps: Social/Emotional Perspectives

Classroom management, building an empathetic classroom where all learners are invested in having their classmates learn (empowerment is a powerful idea), developing empathy in yourself so that you can identify early on students that are showing up for class not ready to learn, engaging with those students early on, find a proxy for getting their needs met. Key: early on…the longer you wait, the harder it will be for both you and the young person to forge a tie to success.  For some students it’s humor and for others it’s a private, kind word. Letting them know how important their success is to you, that they can do it (you believe in them), failure is how we learn and that you have failed (and learned from your experience).

Classroom management (did I already say that?) Never waste your students’ time, make that first 5 minutes count AND make the last 5 minutes count. Attend to fairness and justice for each student and all of the students. Be willing to admit you’re wrong and then work through with the students what your goal was and how better to achieve it. Value their feedback will model them valuing your feedback. Then stick to it.

Find mentors that will lift you up and encourage you to persevere. Try not to engage in complaining about students for the sake of getting things “off your chest.” I find that describing behavior in the hopes of generating some problem solving solutions is much more restorative and helps avoid feeling defeated.If you want your students to persevere then you will have to not give up on them. Always put the responsibility back in their court. You may design another strategy for them to succeed, but ultimately it’s their responsibility.

Major learning gaps needs major support, not an easy thing to do and is very individual. I like to try to find the tool that levels the playing field (sometimes that’s very hard to identify). Also know as breaking down barriers to learning.

Focus on engagement. Engagement and classroom management may be related inversely.  High levels of engagement in your learners lowers the level of classroom management needed.

Learn a little about trauma and its impact on students and learning. Learn a little bit about executive function skills and social/emotional skills and try to inject a few of them into the culture of your class. You would be surprised at how much success can be gained by helping a student get organized or making some suggestions about how to handle frustrations in a more normative way.

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