It is no small task for a teacher to cater to the needs of a class of individuals, but this is far easier achieved if classroom morale is high and students feel equal and valued. Education plays an instrumental role in shaping a student's self-esteem and value system. The school, college or university is not just a learning environment, but it is also a social arena where students learn how to be part of a group, to practice compromise and tolerance, and to assert their own position within that group. The teacher plays a crucial role in raising student morale, so that students get the most out of their education inside and outside the classroom.
Facilitate a class discussion from the first day of teaching the class, to establish each student's expectations of the course, of you as the teacher, and of themselves. Distribute questionnaires where they can write down their strengths and weaknesses.
Meet with students individually to discuss their responses, and work out a plan that will support them to work through their perceived weaknesses, and to make the best of their strengths. Show that you are interested in the learning progress of each student as an individual, as well as the whole class-group.
Encourage the students to work together in groups outside of the classroom, so that they can coach each other and take a peer-support approach to working with their weaknesses and strengths.
Vary your teaching styles, and include your students rather than just lecturing to them from the top of the classroom. Encourage participation through planned presentations, calling them up to the blackboard, using role-play where possible, and peer-appraisal of each other's work. Use humor where appropriate, to make the learning process enjoyable.
Use active listening skills (eye contact, encouraging facial expressions) and ask questions that allow the students to expand on what they are saying. This will make each individual feel respected and listened to. Encourage the students to work in pairs, taking turns to speak and to listen to each other.
Share some personal details about yourself with your students, within the boundaries of appropriateness. Let them know what your favorite film is, what your most bizarre student job was, or what kind of music you like to listen to. Show an interest in them also -- this will work toward establishing a rapport with them and help them feel that they can trust you. Within this rapport, your students will feel valued and respected.
Point out the strengths of their work. If an essay is highly original, or a student has grasped a complex idea, praise him for it. Subject matter that is clearly understood by you is new material to your students, and they need encouragement throughout the learning process. This motivates them by affirming their ability, and reassuring them that they are making progress.
- student image by Ivanna Buldakova from Fotolia.com