Not a child who has failed but one who has been failed by the education system.
Many of the children I work with have been excluded or moved on from previous placements. a significant number have been out of school for a long time. These are children who require a dedicated team to ensure the school is ready for them so they can be ready to learn. Education for them so far has often been a stressful and negative experience. Many in turn are initially reluctant to engage with planned learning – and often with good reason. I am aware this blog is quite niche to special education settings but I hope teachers from all settings will be able to find use for these suggestions.
1. Identify why the child is reluctant to take part.
What drives this? Often it is a combination of factors leading to disengagement from adult directed activity. This may be a way to protect themselves from additional stress and confusion. For example of a child has secluded from their peers peer interactions can be a source of great anxiety. For this child coming into school takes a lot of energy let alone focusing when they arrive, so take it slow and build their trust. A classroom should be a place where a mistake is not to be feared but viewed as a learning experience.
2. Engage with parents
Because they can tell you why a child is not ready to learn, they will know often without realising it what will lead the child to shut down. If you can work together the journey will be smoother and better for all. So pick up the phone, get a liasion book going whatever works a note a day takes time but that time may be a worthwhile investment.
3. Identify the time to learn.
It may not be 9.00 am. It may be after the child has self regulated after the journey in. It may be when the classroom is at its quietest or when their friends are sitting closest to them . It may even be at lunchtime. Initially all children may experience anxiety around transitions. Whether this is into school or between activities. And the time it takes each child to acclimatise or complete this will vary. So….
4. Have anytime, anywhere objectives.
Identifying the proximal learning time is important, the proximal learning location is also key. It may not be at the desk. or it may be at the desk for the first hour and then on the carpet after that. Or by the window so the child does not feel as closed in. Or in the corner so the child feels safe. So set some objectives that don’t rely on the child being sat at the desk at a certain time, a busy bag to take to them may well help.
5. Focus on relationships first and foremost
You will only be able to apply most of these learning strategies once you get to know the child as well as possible. They need to trust you, many adults have proved untrustworthy or at least inconsistent. So take time to build a relationship before expecting engagement, and the child may well test you to make you are deserve their trust.
Clifford, M. Students need Challenge, not easy success – http://ascd.com/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el_199009_clifford.pdf