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How to talk to teachers / How to talk to students

 I have four students not passing my AP English class right now. It’s not too bad, actually: They will all pass at the semester (unless they miss a major assignment).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why they’re not passing. Yes, their reading and writing skills need improvement. Yes, they sometimes miss assignments because of poor time management or because they feel overwhelmed with their academic and personal lives.

But one thing in particular that I’m noticing is that all of them have trouble talking to me in complete sentences.

They might be unwilling. They might feel uncomfortable. They may not trust me. Whatever it is, it’s a major problem. After all, if I don’t have a free-flowing dialogue with my students, there’s a barrier there. There’s no chance for an academic breakthrough. Plus, I can’t support them effectively.

The good news is, I’ve made a lot of good progress with one of the students. And you know what? She’s doing much better now. She knows I’m on her side. We talk about our different tastes in music and about her favorite songs. She asks for my help. She comes to office hours. I help her with technology. We’ve exchanged texts, emails, letters. We know that we’re in this together.

I wouldn’t say I have a horrible relationship with the other three. We’re cordial, but we’re distant. In fact, when I’m talking with the students, I feel an extremely awkward distance between us. I’m sure they’re feeling the same thing, that they’re talking to an impossibly old man. I ask questions, and I get mumbling back. Sometimes, when I say hello, there isn’t even a response.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to make it a point to try to change up our script. Instead of trying really hard to communicate and instead of feeling weird when things go awry, I’m first going to be direct. I’m going to tell the students that I want to improve our communication. Then I’m going to keep things lighthearted, positive — and as natural as I can.

What do you think I should do? 

One comment

  1. tony

    I agree. tell them the truth. tell them what they need to do to pick up their game. tell them they can do it and you will help them to do so. It might be awkward but it will get easier. you are awesome.

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