When assessing my approach to teaching and my relationship with students, I never once forgot the first piece of advice I received. It was my cousin who told that the one thing every good teacher needs to have is “eyes in the back of their head.” It was true back then, and it’s still very much true today, even with the huge technological development we are witnessing in schools.
Whether or not you use new techniques in teaching and classroom management, the best thing you can do is to be aware of the kind of students you have and what each and every one of them is capable of, academically or behaviorally. The faster you find out those things, the better off you’ll be.
What types of students are there?
I tried to classify my students into different categories so I could make my teaching approach easier. I’ve learned a lot in my career in the classroom, as well as through discussions with my colleagues or by participating in seminars and workshops. When all is said and done, I believe that there are three categories of students:
1. Top-tier students – These students are real grinders. Not only are they talented, they have good learning habits and manage to have outstanding academic performance. They are also highly motivated to develop themselves as students and people, so much that they challenge their teachers with their own ideas, extracurricular assignments, questions, and debates. These students always try to push their limits and are very successful in different areas. I would also include students who, for various reasons, don’t have higher capabilities or talents but are working hard to achieve their potential.
2. Skilled managers – These students have a lot of potential and their capabilities are at a high level, but for some reason (lack of motivation, different interests, personal problems, etc.) they don’t strive to achieve those heights. Instead, they do just enough to have good grades, and they won’t try to do much more or challenge themselves. They are active in class, do their homework, prepare for exams, etc., but not consistently. More often than not, teachers have to talk to them or help them get back on track. These kinds of students will mostly give their best effort in classes in which it is easier for them to learn.
3. Work in progress – These students are not very interested in their education and school in general, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have goals or be motivated. Finding out their main interest is key because, through that, you can really reach them and make them interested and invested in the learning process.
There are, of course, nuances to these three categories, but it’s very much debatable if there are more than three. In my experience, finding out in which of these categories each student belongs worked well in managing their development and satisfaction in my classes.
Understanding your students’ capabilities and limitations
Once you know your students better, you can better assess what their capabilities and limitations are. Why is knowing this so important?
1. Creating lesson plans is easier when you know the limits of your students.
2. When you know what they are capable of, you can set an achievable goal for them.
3. You can differentiate exercises and knowledge levels to provide individualized learning. Differentiating exercises and knowledge levels will be possible, as well as individualized learning.
4. You can predict what your students may do, which makes classroom management easier.
5. You will be able to decide which apps, games, sites, and other helping tools you could use with a particular group of students.
I’m am entering my thirteenth year as a French teacher, and I have seen many different kinds of students. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to choose what technique I should use with some of them. But getting to know them and finding out what kind of people they are and what makes them “tick” proved to be the right way to help them. “Look at the person before you look at the student” became my motto.