Don’t Let Your Students Give Up

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James Manwaring

James Manwaring is Director of Music for Windsor Learning Partnership, a Multi-Academy Trust in Windsor, Berkshire. He oversees music for the 4 schools in the trust and has been working in music education for 16 years. James has been nominated for a National Music Education...
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How can we help students persevere?

We work with young people who need us. They not only need us to teach them but they need us to not let them give up.

‘Giving up’ is something that seems to be more and more common in our schools and I think we need to open our eyes to the students that need our support. We simply mustn’t let them give up. Do you have a student or a class that spring to mind?

Who isn’t making progress?

All might seem well and they might be smiling and turning up to the right lessons and handing in their work. But we need to make sure that they are making progress and that they are not giving up inside.

One thing I have often notice is that in the face of pressure or feedback, a student that is giving up will not respond positively. If the first time they are “put on the spot” is at a parents evening, then you may be spotting it too late.

Make sure that you keep a close eye on them and make sure that they are still engaging with lessons.

How can you help?

These students need their own plan and they need to know what they need to do. A truly personalised approach to their learning, that is broken down into manageable chunks, will really help them to keep going. This is something we can do long before it looks like a students is going to give up. I am not talking about differentiation, but I am talking about ensuring that students know what they need to do and don’t get a shock down the line into the year.

The worst case scenario is where a student “gives up” in the lead up to GCSE or A-Level exams and just assumes that they can drop out. This is often not possible and as staff we need to spot this early and try to help them see the end goal. It can be hard in the run up to exam where work builds up and coursework deadlines approach. So we must make sure that we are looking out for them even if the rest of the class are moving forward well.

There is that temptation to just say – “Well its your GCSE, your choice,” but these are young people with pressures on them and sometimes they lack the mental stability to see a way forward.

As teachers we can’t always leave it them, and whilst in a perfect world every student would care, some just don’t. And there can be lots of different reasons for that.

What can we do practically as teachers?

  1. Have a specific plan for specific students. It might be extra sessions after school, or some more targeted revision.
  2. Explore whether or not they would like support from an older student who has completed the course and might be able to help them revise or learn.
  3. Make sure that you are aware of the backgrounds of your students. We often know about SEN and learning issues, but there might be other factors at play that we should know about. Get to know your support team and LSA team in school as they will be able to help.
  4. Seek advice from other staff and find out if it is a common problem for a student or if it is subject specific. Sometimes it is subject specific because they have let things slip and they just give up on your subject. But often there is a bigger issue and it might help to make other staff aware.
  5. Communication with home is crucial, but maybe chat to the student first. Give them a heads up and work with them and build up a positive professional relationship with them regarding their learning.
  6. Aim to instil a growth mindset in students – you are not there YET. If you don’t know about growth mindsets then I would get reading as it is an amazing area of study for us teachers. Look up youth empowering experts like Action Jackson and get your students truly fired up and full of positivity.

We ultimately can’t let students give up on their work, but also we mustn’t let them give up on life in general. It is tough being a young people and as teachers we not only have a duty of care but we have a huge influence on their lives. So remember that you matter and that you make a difference.

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