9 ways to help failing students

One joy of a faculty member in school is the opportunity to train the next generation of scholars who will continue our work to innovate and create, extend human knowledge, and improve the human condition. In most cases, teaching students is rewarding; we teachers witness the growth, discovery, and learning of our students.

On occasion, however, teaching can be tiresome, frustrating, and even downright unpleasant. Most often this occurs when a student fails to progress in the required and expected manner. Such students are the present focus: how should mentors react when a student fails to progress?

Here are nine ways educators can support kids that are failing

Get the parents involved early. Whether or not you think the parents will actually make a difference, go ahead and involve them early. The responsibility for teaching kids is ultimately the parents’, not ours, so they need to be informed about what’s going on.

But don’t just tell them their kid is failing. Give them specific ideas of what they can do to help. Many parents want to help but just don’t know exactly what to do. Use language like “We all want so-and-so to succeed and I believe he would if _____.”

Intentionally help the student whenever possible. How you do this will vary depending on your grade level and class structure, but make it a priority to help your failing students whenever you can. In my middle school math classroom, I scheduled time for students to work on problems so that I can move around the classroom & help individuals. Make it a point to check in on your failing students, even if they didn’t raise their hands for help. And if you do see their hand up, make them your first priority.

Encourage them. Considering how frustrated and discouraged we sometimes get with our struggling students, imagine how they must feel. Yes, sometimes it seems like they don’t care, but often this is just a mask or coping mechanism for their frustration. We need to encourage them as much as possible. Praise them for even the smallest successes or improvements, and tell them that you believe in them and know they can succeed.

Provide opportunity for self-reflection. Help the student walk through a process of self-reflection. This will, of course, vary depending on the age, but for middle school and high school I give them a short questionnaire that asks them to 1) list all the reasons they think they are failing and 2) write down a plan for how to improve.  Then go over it with them, encouraging them and giving additional ideas (and occasionally prodding them to think a little deeper).

Now we all know that asking a student questions like this can result in a blank stare. But don’t let them off the hook. Be patient and let them sit there and think about it (while you do something else, of course). Or ask prodding questions such as “Do you think not doing your homework is part of the problem?” to help get the ball rolling.

Ask how you can help. This is a simple concept, but we don’t do it often enough. Ask the failing student what you, as their teacher, can do to help. You may not get much of an answer, but you may also be surprised at their response. Then, of course, do what you can.

Look for underlying problems. Try to determine what underlying problems are causing them to struggle. Do they have a genuine learning disability? Are there problems at home? Do they need glasses? Are they playing too many video games? Often we try to correct the symptoms without ever getting to the root of the problem.

Require them to complete class work. I realize this is easier said than done, but do everything in your power to get them to complete their work. Don’t just let them off the hook: require them to at least make a valiant attempt.

Don’t give up on them. Too often it seems like nothing is ever going to change, but we can’t give up on our students. Sometimes we won’t see the results for months or even years, but that doesn’t mean we’re wasting our time. We’ve got to believe in our students and show them that we believe in them. It’s a conscious choice – it does not depend on our feelings at the moment.

When all else fails, let them fail.  When you’ve done all you can and it’s report card time and they clearly earned an F, give them an F. Now I know in some schools this is simply not allowed (which is a tragedy), but unless it’s forbidden, go ahead and put the F on the report card.

Just passing them along to the next grade or course is not helping them, and often what they need most is to go through the course again.

Students on eQualifai value your time and knowledge. So join us and use these methods to help students that need your support and assistance.

Registrate now and help the ones who hold our future.

Leave a comment