Here are three tips from Jason Burke about how to successfully engage at-risk students.
• Keep it real
Sometimes these students are lucky to even show up at school let alone excel at your subject. They have crazy lives at home and some of them work one or two jobs to help support their families. As teachers, we all like to think that we are the number one priority and that all of our students will go on to major in our subject at the college level. But most of these students don't even have college on their list of priorities. Teachers need to make this OK.
• Care about them
No, really. Take a genuine interest. In my time as a Pathways teacher, I've met a number of students that would be considered at-risk. They lead some of the most interesting lives out of all of the students I've met in 12 years teaching. Once they see that you're a real person and that you care, they really open up about their lives. These students come back and visit and update me on how things are going after they graduate. I've even helped a couple of students find work after they graduated. It's a really rewarding experience.
• Set attainable goals
Goals that build self-esteem and show off the student's strengths. These kids have probably been told their whole lives that they aren't good in school. When you give them a goal that they can reach, they stretch a little further with each new goal you set. By the end of the semester, they are doing things that they never even thought were possible!