Through the use of my knowledge of students’ diverse backgrounds, I have implemented teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. I have altered my teaching and lesson plans to suit students on an individual needs basis where possible, in order to enhance their learning.
An example of the above can be taken from a year 9 mentor class I taught for a period of 10 weeks. The 5 indigenous male students involved with the mentor class had behavioural issues in a certain learning area and it was decided that they may benefit from individual instruction and a more relaxed, but firm teaching style. Some of these students had issues with language, literacy and numeracy and were from a low socioeconomic area. In order to achieve progress with this group of young boys, I had to implement teaching strategies that were responsive to their learning needs. I asked advice from experienced colleagues who gave me several ideas of how to address these issues and the best methods they have tried and had success with.
My main goal was to develop a strong student-teacher relationship with each student, which in my opinion is one of the best methods to ensure students respect and work for you. This would help to motivate, connect and “get through” to these boys to hopefully make a difference and change their somewhat negative attitude towards school. Firstly I made the lessons informal by making the class a group discussion or a place where the boys could speak about anything and everything. There were still rules and guidelines that were followed. E.g. No hats inside, no headphones and ‘minimal’ swearing. They could sit where they chose, could speak when they wanted, and had a say it what would be covered in each lesson (up to a point). In order to get the best out of each individual I needed to understand what was going on in their world and in their heads. Their likes, dislikes, goals, role models and most importantly what motivates them.
I designed an ‘About you’ questionnaire in order to gather this information during the first lesson of the program. I found that giving them the independence and autonomy to choose and have an input in their own learning had a positive effect and increased engagement. In addition, the relaxed environment and verbal based activities helped with understanding and developing their language, literacy and numeracy skills.
I introduced a goal based competition where the boys would attempt as many push ups as possible for the first lesson and try to beat their score every lesson thereafter. This simple exercise introduced goal setting in a fun, competitive and achievable manner, which the boys looked forward to every week. I would use this as a reward for finishing all set work during the lesson. On a more serious note in relation to goal setting, I had the boys write down three short term goals and three long term goals on a piece of paper and placed them all in an envelope to look at later in the year. Some of the boys achieved their goals, some did not.
I also considered the ‘bigger picture’, focusing a number of the lessons on the skills needed to find employment. We discussed relevant documents, including cover letters and resumes and I gave the boys the opportunity to create their own. In conjunction with this I explained the importance of achieving the best grade possible at school in order to improve their chances of getting a job in the future. We made certain agreements using a reward system based on attendance and behaviour at school. If the boys obeyed all requirements then they would be rewarded at the end of the term. This gave the boys motivation to achieve and attempt to follow the rules, even though this proved difficult for some of them. I created a comical/fun contractual agreement which I made all the boys agree to and sign.
Although teaching this group of boys was challenging at times, I enjoyed it. Some would label this group of boys as ‘trouble makers’ or something similar, but once you break down the tough exterior and begin to understand what is going on in their heads, it’s clear to see that all they want is to succeed at something and should always be given a second chance.
This article relates to the following Professional standards: