Cheryl Wilson, an assistant principal in Columbia, South Carolina perfectly captured the process of helping a teenager back on track with compassion in the following anecdote from her experience:
My first year as an administrator, I encountered a young lady who was different from most. She had serious trials in her personal life, and, as a result, she had built a tough exterior. She rapidly captured the attention of students and teachers. She was sent to the office frequently and made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t concerned about being suspended. I welcomed the challenge to break down this wall, and I never gave up on her. I knew that too many people had already done that.
I worked on assignments with her, complimented her, and whenever she talked, I listened. Don’t get me wrong, this was not easy, but things turned around. She began to return my greetings with smiles and hellos, which eventually transformed into hugs. Her office visits dwindled, and her behavior began to change. The attention she sought was now being offered in a different way.
Wilson’s anecdote describes a student who has put up a protective shield, one that could easily be overlooked by a caring, but overbooked teacher of the 21stcentury. All too often students that need that extra boost of positivity just don’t receive that attention and ‘slip through the cracks,’ even at institutions that boast small teacher to student ratios, high endowments and an impressive resume of college admissions.
I’ve found that sometimes just a flavor of positive attention from an adult figure they respect can be enough to perceive their own capabilities in a ways they didn’t previously imagine. This is what I love about one-on-one training; this explains why it often provides such catharsis. While I certainly value the social training and resource availability of large institutions, working one on one with a qualified adult who is strategically positive and caring is highly undervalued in our educational system. This is why I love tutoring.
Ascd. “Tell Me About … / How You Connected with a Hard-to-Reach Student.” How Student Progress Monitoring Improves Instruction – Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership, Sept. 2016, www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/sept16/vol74/num01/How_you_connected_with_a_hard-to-reach_student.aspx.