Giving Compass’ Take:
• Heather Stinnett explains how she came to understand that all students – regardless of ability – need personal attention from teachers in order to fulfill their potential.
• How can funders help schools and teachers access the resources they need to provide this sort of personal attention? Especially in low-income areas, how can schools overcome the financial barriers to providing personal attention?
• Learn about building teacher-student connections.
Tommy never completed his homework. He was a sweet boy who seemed to love school, but I couldn’t get him to catch up on his work no matter how much I reminded him. I started to meet with Tommy a few times per week during the school day for 15 minutes while students worked on math problems. We focused on his homework, and we’d talk about other things too.
I learned a lot about his life outside of school: He looked after some of the neighborhood kids after school, while their parents and his single mom were working second or third jobs. He absolutely loved cats and dogs, though he didn’t have pets at home. He could do his homework if he had time or a family member at home in the evenings to help out; but he didn’t. We talked about movies, music and food.
As we worked on his assignments and got to know each other better, it was clear that Tommy felt supported, and as a result, his confidence and his scores went up. As I started to understand what motivated him, our interactions took on a new level of depth and I became a more effective teacher for him. Learning went from something intimidating that he had to do alone while I stood in front of the class, to a more relaxed, student-centered collaboration.
One of his classmates, Emily, approached me after one of my sessions with Tommy and asked to have her own regular meeting time with me.
I was perplexed—Emily didn’t need help. She had support at home and did her homework every night. I asked her why she wanted to meet and she said, “So I can learn even more.” I didn’t have time to meet with every student regularly, so I declined.
Emily and I started to have quick informal meetings together. We reviewed her assignments, and she pushed herself further than ever. We talked about friendships, books and classwork. Our meetings surfaced how Emily’s own high expectations for herself caused a significant amount of anxiety. She seemed so “together” in class—I had no idea she was struggling with this. We talked through strategies for diffusing her anxiety, and in time she began to use them. Soon, I was flooded with requests to meet one-on-one. That year, I learned just how much students crave a more personal connection with their teacher.
Read the full article about personal attention for students by Heather Stinnett at EdSurge.
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