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Supporting Student Emotions

Research shows students need 3 positives to every negative feedback to be positively engaged.

Thus, if we know when, where and how students’ emotions occur during the instructional process, we then can be proactive and place them in winning situations. We need to think through how our students are thinking and reacting emotionally through the process of learning. We cannot have a warehouse attitude, we must embrace a nurturing approach, from preschool through the early years of High School.

Students emotionally receive homework, classwork and assessments and are sensitive about it! When giving and receiving feedback, beware of the emotions that block us and their learning. Then, focus on how to see the possibilities of improvement and succeeding to achieve our goals. We all have to move through those emotions anyway, so make them work for you. In contrast, if you do not, many students will experience defeat and give up on learning.

Grades motivate good achieving students, but not underachieving students or those with behavior problems. Grades are usually given out as rewards and punishments; however, that does not work with unmotivated students. Threatening students does not work, via grades or other means.  Such students usually have other struggles in life and all we are doing is giving them another defeat which only pushes them further away.

How can we do this?

  • Make sure we are giving specific positive feedback by showing them what they can do better to improve. Have the mindset that our job is to engage students and help them achieve their highest potential.
  • We need to think through if we have properly taught students what they need to be learning. It is not about how much we teach, the targets; rather, it is about our success from their success. Our success as teachers is how well our students have learned!
  • Create a class board that recognizes student’s achievement. Send notes home, parents like good reports!
  • By coaching students by clearly communicating well, giving them clear learning targets, as well as good formative assessments. This will help ease students on the winning side of learning.
  • We are to encourage them to seek out and attempt to do new things. Look where they will be eager to learn something by helping then seek to take on challenges. Project based learning is your best friend for this.
  • Allow your students to make mistakes, as it is just as important when they learn from setbacks as teaching new ideas and skills.
  • We need to create a learning environment where all students are, happy, and excited to come to school each day, then they will be more engaged. Think through how to make that happen. Many teachers do so with their personality, the rest of us have to work at it.
  • Bring your students out of criticism into the winning situation of encouragement. As teachers, we need to break the dysfunctional cycles of apathy and the mindset, “I can’t do this” and look into ways to motivate our students to pull them out of this cycle.
  • Ask your students to self-reflect on what they are doing, such as verbal feedback, or writing out their questions or posting statements with sticky notes on a class board, or in group discussions. This will give you the needed feedback and your students get the support during the critical learning points.
  • We must also judge our success by how well our students are learning, not by standardized tests When students know what to expect and know what success looks like they are better able to climb up in this education.

It is very important that as teachers we are nurturing the entire child. Especially in this day and age, many do not get this at home. We do this by being positive and encouraging to them and not being negative, even in our tough days.

Students on the losing side of education tend to experience teachers just using criticism as a reward and progress tool. With this attitude they will experience defeat after defeat. Such students will focus on these evidences of failure and feel hurt and embarrassed. Then they will feel nothing works for them. They will tend to seek what is easy and what they can get away with or not even try for the fear of failure. They will not seek to be challenged and if they are, they will usually give up in this criticism motivator. The end result is the student that is caught up in this cycle will see no purpose for education or relevance for their teachers or their future.

When students begin to form connections of how learning today can help them tomorrow, then they become more engaged with their learning. Then, as teachers we will be able to reach our goals and achieve success.

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.

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