Teaching in High Need Environments gives educators an opportunity to empower disadvantaged students and inspire them to believe in their abilities to excel. Once students are convinced that they can achieve, the quality of their academic performance will drastically improve.
The goal is challenging but the investment is worth the time. if every teacher can transform the life of just one disadvantage young person into that of a scholar, that educator will have advanced the objective of closing the achievement gap.
But succeeding as an educator in a High Need Environment will require you to display a number of qualities and skills as well as knowledge of student struggles.
Reasons for the High Needs Environment
A student can be considered high-need for many reasons. However, the root causes usually originate from outside of the classroom, perhaps even before the child becomes school age. Some of the conditions that can affect failing students include:
- Acquiring Poor values outside of school
- Living in chaotic surroundings
- Low self-esteem
- Divorce of parents
- Sudden loss of a parent
- Constant disruptions to a child’s stability
The experience of the above conditions upon a child can destroy his or her sense of purpose, meaning, and motivation for life and academics.
Defying Hopeless Looking Situations
We, as educators, must commit to making a difference in the lives of these students regardless of how hopeless the situation looks.
5 EffectiveTips for Teaching in a High Needs Environment
Student Focus as Priority
You must have a passion which surpasses the ordinary to survive in an environment where students have a multitude of negative issues going on. Sometimes your energy will be stretched to the limit. If you don’t have the passion you might be tempted to throw in the towel on this group of students.
Before committing to such an environment, make sure that you are willing to dedicate yourself to this particular level of teaching.
Knowledge of Student Conditions
To teach successfully high-risk students you must have some idea of what they may be dealing with on a day to day basis outside of school, especially middle and high-school students who can make an independent decision regarding their lives.
Knowing what students are going through will provide an understanding when they seem to be going into the opposite direction of academic learning.
A Calming Presence
Strive to be a calming presence in a High Needs Environment. Students need to be in the presence of someone who is calm and provides a sense of safety and security. An educator with a presence of calm and coolness will instruct students with understanding and sensitivity to their plight.
He or she pushed them to be accountable while at the same time providing them with independent decision making.
High-risk students are more willing to listen to educators who use such an encouraging approach in dealing with their academic and behavior struggles.
In a High Needs Environment, educators don’t always adhere to the lesson plan. We must be willing to adjust to the prevailing situation. For example, if the atmosphere is too chaotic for teaching a particular subject, I am willing to change the game and engage in some other activity. Fun and creativity activities must be implemented at such times.
I always have a creative plan for implementing when regular teaching becomes too difficult. For younger grades, you can present a project, perhaps dealing with art or music or game activities. For older students, I try to inspire them with attractive outdoor projects or allow them to write letters to their favorite celebrities, engage in song-guessing competition or some other exciting activity.
Patience: My Greatest Virtue in Teaching
Besides having a calming presence and a willingness to adapt, one of my greatest abilities as a teacher is having patience with my students. I have had this ability for thirteen years. Considering the many difficult challenges high-risk students have to face, there is a need for patient and persevering teachers in schools across America.
Because we as educators have to be teacher, parent, and psychologist in today’s classrooms, many of them become highly frustrated with students and give up on their professions. They lose hope. But hope must be sustained in the high need schools because that is exactly what the student’s need. They have no hope in any place else.
As alluded to earlier, ninety percent of the time these high-risk students come from dysfunctional families and oppressive environments where their best interest in not in mind. So most students come to school not motivated enough to be interested in learning anything?
Therefore I always come to school with the intent of doing whatever it takes to help my students, which mean being a teacher, parent, and psychologist, not once and a while, but every day.
In my class, there are students who misbehave constantly throughout the day, but by patiently administering personal, social, and structural motivation, the time eventually comes when I began to see significant progress.
Uninterested students become interested, slow learners become excited, but most importantly character begins to change. For example, one of my students was so transformed in the second half of the school year that his fellow classmates, as well as his parents, saw the change. Therefore, patience is both a virtue and also a great ability.
But if you are new to teaching in a High Need Environment, you will discover that patience is the key to successful classroom management as well. In this type of atmosphere, some students will have no respect for you. They simply do not care about their behavior or about its effect on anyone else. Their attitude is full of anguish. But this is an issue that must be confronted. Addressing it will take time and patience.
This is where knowledge of your students and their conditions comes into focus. I take the time to recognize what my students might be going through.
We often form circles and ask different questions aimed at getting to know one another better. We discuss rules and regulations, procedures, and processes. We learn about what one another like and fear; we learn about one another dreams and hopes. I also lead appropriate classroom games that provided interaction in order to test my student’s social ability.
The goal of this kind of activity is for me to connect personally to my students and for them to connect personally to me and one another. My intention is to create a team concept so that no student fills unimportant to the success of his or her classroom.
Motivation: The Greatest Need
The greatest need for students in high need classrooms is to get motivated and stay inspired about learning. Therefore instilling motivation must be a teacher’s first goal. High need children are people with feelings, thoughts, emotions, which must be addressed and positively redirected.
To ignore this would be an educator’s biggest mistake. A child’s personal reality must be recognized first, especially if you are planning to develop a highly motivated and progressive classroom where the joy of learning takes place.
My approach to teaching has been very rewarding, and although there are constant challenges my goal is to always create a positive learning environment. This should be the objective of all educators.