A Student Like Me

I don't know if this is something everyone does or whether it's just me, but I am always thinking about my younger self when I teach.

What type of teacher did I need? What things can I do to make a student warm to me, feel safe, supported, and learn best?

For the record, I was the student who, back in the 90s, would have been classed as very shy but was actually very anxious and stressed. I was a diligent and responsible student, so you couldn't always tell how I was doing under the surface.

Here are 10 things I do for the anxious students in my class that (surprise!) are actually beneficial for all students! 

  1. Start the day by telling students what is happening that day. Going through the daily schedule helps students settle and relax into the day.
  2. Keep to a routine. Doing things at the same time each day in the same way, especially for the first session each morning, helps reduce the anxiety that can come up each morning for anxious kids before they even arrive at school. 
  3. Give advance warning of any changes to routine and give students as much information about it as you can. If you know you will not be in the next day and they will have a relief teacher, tell them the day before. This gives them a chance to process it. You can talk them through how things are going to work so they know what to expect, e.g. if photo day is coming up, tell them what will happen on the day - where will the photos be, how will the photographer likely set them up, etc. These details will help decrease the amount they have to stress about.
  4. If asking students to get into groups or pairs and allowing students to select their own group, watch the process closely. If a student looks like they are being left out, match them up with another person as quickly as possible. No one wants to be the last person standing!
  5. If you're placing students in groups (even random ones), try and put the quieter kids with a friend. There are lots of ways to do this without students knowing (let me know if you would like me to do a future email on this!) This technique is more important at the beginning of the year when students may not know everyone else well enough.
  6. Don't assume what they can and can't do. I used to love acting in front of the class! I preferred a script, but I didn't mind improv- weird right when I have social phobia and usually avoid social situations. Lucky for me, I had a few teachers that realised this and gave me key roles in assembly items and didn't just assume I would rather be a stagehand.
  7. Clearly state your expectations. Before any activity, tell students how you expect them to behave, what they need to do, and how you want it to look. 
  8. Keep things consistent. Don't allow your students to get away with something one day and then crack down hard on it the next day. 
  9. When asking questions, ensure you give enough warning and think time. Giving students a chance to think about their answers and share with someone next to them can give them the confidence to then share their answer with the larger class. This increases participation and decreases anxiety. 
  10. Build strong relationships with these students. The more comfortable the students are with you, the more they will feel like they can approach you for their needs rather than keeping them to themselves.

I told you a lot of them are things that help all students. Have a think about each of those points and how well you are doing them in your classroom.

Also, I would love it if you commented below and let me know what type of student you were in school!

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