In The Open Door Isn’t Always Open from Practical Theory, Chris Lehmann shares,
“Some students need to be invited to come for extra help. Some students need to be told that the teacher wants to see them. That individualized attention where a student feels the personal investment of a teacher is invaluable.”
If I waited for my students to show up for extra help, it would never happen. First of all, students see asking for help as a sign of weakness and they don’t want their peers to see them as weak. Sometimes kids can be like a pack of dogs and they will attack the weak one. Plus, they are trying to grow into their own skin and want to be independent so by needing help, they lack the independence that they crave. They also want to be like their peers and if their peers don’t need extra help, then they do not want to be the odd one and need help. If you are different, you tend to stand out instead of belong.
I try to help the students by taking this decision away from them. I schedule everyone to have a personal appointment with me. During this time, we can discuss problems they are having or talk about a hobby they love but everyone gets time with the teacher. Then, if I feel someone needs extra help with specific skills, I can use this time to help them. Sometimes I learn more about my students during this time and find out what their interests are. If I need to schedule another appointment, then we talk about the best way for the student to handle this. Sometimes they can share with their friends that I want to know more about their particular hobby or that I need some help with something I’m doing. Either way, I try to help them save face in front of their friends because I don’t care how we work it out as long as the student is getting the extra help they need. This also helps the students who don’t need the help because they are also getting some extra attention since they are usually the ones who get ignored or fall through the cracks. They might not need help with classwork but it might help them to talk about other things.
Sometimes you can’t expect students to take the first step. As the professional, you have to take the first step and show them how to get help. Over time you can teach them that asking for help is not something to be ashamed about but first you have to earn their trust. You can assume that students know how to ask for help or willing to take the risk of doing this. They are afraid they will lose more than they will gain. With your experience and wisdom, you know better but you didn’t when you were young. Someone guided you and helped you through this risky time in your life. Be the same lifesaver for someone else. Invite the student in.