We all want to help our struggling learners succeed, but sometimes it feels that students are so far behind, they will never catch up. We do our best, and sometimes we even see some progress, but if you’re like I was, those successes seem few and far between.
In my own classroom I struggled for years to find a way to reach my struggling learners and help them be successful without sacrificing rigor. I tried and failed at more strategies than I can name. Until one day, I figured out a way that finally worked. Over the years, I’ve trained thousands of teachers on this strategy and watched them make a huge difference almost immediately for their struggling learners. And, I’ve also learned how to identify the big pitfalls that can derail your support efforts.
If you are frustrated that you can’t seem to help all your students meet or exceed the standards… if you are starting to think that every child succeeding is an unrealistic goal… if you are wearing yourself out trying to prepare your struggling students for the BIG tests coming up and worried that your efforts won’t make any difference at all, I know exactly how you feel. The reason so many of our efforts to support struggling learners often fail is because we are unintentionally making one or more of these three big mistakes:
Mistake #1: Ad Hoc Support
Most attempts to support struggling students are reactive. Students struggle and then we scramble to find a support that we hope will get them back on track. Unfortunately, this hit-or-miss ad hoc approach is frustrating for students and exhausting to teachers. Why? Because you are guessing and hoping your ad hoc supports will work rather than having a reliable, sure-fire system of support for students– one that provides consistent and reliable results every single time. Acceleration helps you systematically anticipate where students may struggle so that you can create supports and put them in place BEFORE students even need them.
Mistake #2: Generalized Support
When students struggle, many of us see the vastness of their struggle and try to solve it all at once. We end up throwing the kitchen sink at them, trying to fill in every gap and meet every challenge they face. But when students struggle in class, they are struggling for a specific reason. Sure, they may have several learning gaps and challenges, but at that moment, their struggle can usually be tied to a very specific learning gap or challenge. Rather than try to fill EVERY need a struggling learner faces, you need to target what they need right now. The better you are at pinpointing their specific source of struggle, the better you will be at solving it. Acceleration helps you target the source of students’ struggle today and quickly get students back on track so that they can be successful immediately.
Mistake #3: Delayed Support
If we wait for students to fail as the first signal that they need help, our support will always come too late. By the time a student is experiencing struggle, they are already scared, frustrated, and losing motivation by the moment. Trying to provide support under those conditions is not only stressful for us, it is stressful for the student. The other challenge is that we cannot always predict when students will encounter struggle. So while we stand at the ready with supports, if the student starts to struggle at home or on the weekend or while we are working with another student, we may miss the opportunity to help them when they need us the most. That’s why acceleration works so well. It gives students the supports they will need BEFORE they need them. Sometimes these supports actually PREVENT struggle in the first place. Other times, these supports equip students with real-time and just-in-time resources and skills they need to successfully manage any struggle so that they can overcome it quickly and get back on track even if you aren’t there to help them.
If you are making any of these mistakes, or you know teachers who are, then I’ve got good news for you. Acceleration can help you immediately overcome these mistakes and give your struggling students the support they need to be successful. Next week, I’ll break down the steps to acceleration and show you a few examples of what it looks like in the classroom.