How to help students excel even when it seems impossible

Teaching since 1985 has given this writer the experience to realize that children can learn even when it seems impossible. Hence, one might ask ‘what is the secret?’

There is no secret other than showing concern. Speaking from personal experience, sparking an interest in learning has to do with the educator. Once a pupil in the humblest of schools in Greece, this writer had no desire to look at a school, let alone attend one. The atmosphere left much to be desired. Yet it was not the old drafty building that drove away the interest. In fact, there are many fond memories of interaction with classmates, films viewed, celebrations and even crafts done that prevail in the memory.

What stands out, though, as quite unconstructive is the memory of the educators; especially those in the second and third grades. There was no warmth directed to most of the students (particularly the poorest). Only cold demands and threats lingering over students’ heads and threads of red ink all over the notebooks stand out. Rarely were explanations given, or assistance to better comprehend the tasks at hand.

Ah, and punishment in all its forms prevailed as a teaching technique.

Upon beginning school as an immigrant to the States, there was an instant change. The grand school building with its tall windows and large cafeteria made a strong impact on the seven-year-old mind, but it was the non-threatening, warm embrace of the teacher that made the whole new experience one that would change the life of this child. Not only was there born a novel interest in learning (which had always been present and was only buried) but there came alive a fiery desire to be the best possible.

All educators have that grave responsibility to bear; getting that youngster interested in what he/she has to communicate. So how does a teacher go about this when it seems futile?


*Firstly, he/she must have an authentic Love of Teaching. That alone guides the individual into how to go about his/her lesson.

*Secondly, using a variety of Prompts will inspire and excite. These prompts include interesting story-telling to draw attention to the subject at hand; videos concerning the subject; assigning the task of finding information on the Internet or using the Internet in class to work on that grammar .

*Thirdly and finally, showing genuine Concern. Every individual has that instinct to realize the unspoken. Children have it tenfold as they are not bombarded by the concerns of this world (that is why it is obscured in adults).

Therefore, when a teacher is able to help a student disclose the positive elements he/she encloses in his/her complex being, then a window to another way of life or reality may be opened. Such was the case in this writer’s case where the teachers who took on the responsibility of teaching the language and the various subjects embraced that seven year old child with concern and care.

But is it in actuality entirely up to the educator? To be fair, helping a child excel has to do with a combination of factors. One is the teacher, because where family fails, the education system must encourage.

Speaking of family, what can be more important than the family itself?

From the moment a child is conceived, it begins forming thought patterns and feelings. Once that child comes into this world, the way it perceives itself is down to its parents. The way a parent reacts to and treats its offspring determines how that child sees itself and how that child views itself establishes its performance in and out of school. Family background or lack of it may influence a child’s performance in school and generally in its life decisions.

As far as children are concerned, their manner of learning in the beginning is of course through imitation. Consequently, if a parent does not aspire to read books or lacks interest in the child’s well-being in and out of school, the child in turn will follow suit. It can, therefore, be readily understood that the family and the life within that family has everything to do with learning.

In closing, the parents bear the weight of raising sound individuals which will be able to learn and excel, but the educators also have the duty of helping carry that load once the children cross the threshold to their classrooms. Even when the task at hand may seem a lost cause, the effort put forth and the warmth emitted will stay with the young learner his/her entire life. And who knows, it might be the catalyst in better decision-making throughout that individual’s life.