How to deal with a low achievement student? Navid (NOT REAL NAME OF STUDENT) is a 16 year old grade 10 student.
This is his second semester at a new school. According to Navid's mother, he was always "a little different", "off in her own world", and different from his successful siblings. Navid's parents expect high academic standings for all their children and have been disappointed in his school performance. They hoped that his poor grades and daydreaming personality were just a phase that she would outgrow.
Navid's school records indicate that he received learning assistance support throughout elementary school. His academic achievement over the years has been consistently lower than average. Report card comments indicate that he has been a "loner", preferring to doodle quietly in the library rather than going to gym or cafeteria at lunch. He is currently achieving barely passing grades in most courses.
As a teacher, what are the next steps that should be taken in this case? What additional information is required? How could the teacher accommodate Navid’s needs in the classroom?
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As a teacher, this problem will appear more than you want it to. I would try to ascertain what his problems are in your class. Does he understand the material? Ask him in private to read to you and answer two questions about what he read to see if he can get both the literal answer for a reading and the inferential answers as well. He may need to read questions aloud to see if he is putting in words or letters which are not there which means he may be guessing what the words are. Is he very literal? Ask him to explain the meaning of the phrase "All that glitters is not gold." If he understands it literally, he may say something about it being silver, and not get the figurative meaning.
As you say, he has always been different, off in his/her own world and a loner who prefers to avoid places where social interaction is required. Both the gym and cafeteria are very loud places; both make me think the student is avoiding the noise for the library quiet or the social interaction which is difficult for him. Taken together, I'm thinking the student is sensory defensive and maybe has a learning disability rather than laziness. Being in a world of his own making makes me think of students who are on the autism spectrum such as Asbergers. Achievement on a few math problems is great, but too many is overwhelming? Again, I would ask the parents if he has been medically evaluated for issues which affect learning.
As for you accommodating his needs, I would try several things.
- Make daily work contain fewer pieces. Maybe answer 3 questions well instead of 10. Maybe allow him to record or tape his answers. Maybe allow parents to write if he creates the answer.
- If you have a long project, divide it up into very small pieces with deadlines to match to prevent overwhelming him.
- Try putting him with two or three students you can trust to be welcoming or accepting of the unusual. When a student of mine would withdraw like this one does, I always talked to them in private and asked several questions designed to figure out why or what caused the withdrawal in MY class.
As for you the teacher, do your best to help him join in the class, feel accepted and willing to try. Don't assume that you are responsible for everything happening with him. Get an evaluation team involved to look at learning disabilities. When you have done what you can, teach your class while you try to help him achieve, and try to help his parents see that they must go further than just being disappointed in him. After that, relax, remember that you have done everything you can and that you cannot solve every problem that comes into your classroom.
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