In a recent blog post (The Generosity of Time), I shared our experience with a local businessman assisting us to navigate the Osaka subway. I made the case that while we appreciated his assistance we honored the time he took from his normal workday to ensure we were on the right path to reach our desired destination.
I concluded my blog as follows.
“It is truly a gift when someone decides to invest their time in assisting others, an attribute we all can gain and enhance as we go through life. The gift of time to strangers is not only helpful but connects us as human beings, rebuilds trust in others and demonstrates that we all can contribute to other’s needs. Time is something we each possess; it is what we choose to do with it that makes a difference.”
I want to expand on this notion of helping others by suggesting how it can be useful in our schools. We know schools are one place where youth are educated, but, from my experience, what students need to effectively acquire knowledge, skills and dispositions varies by the student, subject and context. In other words, each student has unique needs and assets therefore we need to establish diverse strategies to motivate and educate them. Below is my list of strategies; I encourage you to create your list of strategies to help students fully develop.
- Listening: really hearing a students’ perspective and honoring their experiences, insights and ways of learning
- Assisting: providing assistance to ensure a student fully understands the subject and gains the corresponding knowledge and skills
- Supporting: being prepared to support a student in ways they find most helpful by asking them what they need, how they can be best supported and then responding in effective ways
- Standing by: being capable of standing by for a student to ponder their tasks and being available, on their terms, to step in when they are needed
- Guiding: demonstrating to a student the relevancy of the topic and tasks to ensure they understand “why” the subject and work is important now and in the future
- Learning: ensuring a students’ experiences inform and increase our knowledge and skills so that we provide the appropriate level of support and assistance each student needs to be successful in school and life.
A guiding principle for me is that each student has dynamic needs and assets and thus the strategies we use to motivate and educate them should not be static but every changing as our students’ progress. To quote the Beatles song Help:
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I never done before
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me
As teachers, we need to recognize the changing needs of each student and be prepared to assist and support them the most effective ways we can. As we do so our needs and assets change increasing our attributes to nurture our youth.