I tutor a cute little 4 years old. Why? He struggles with writing the English letters (upper and lower case), numbers and more recently the spellings of those numbers. Needless to say, the amount of homework he gets is not doable for him. So, I write lightly in his schoolbooks and he traces. There is no other choice; otherwise he gets a negative comment. Consequently, I received a letter from his teacher, which essentially insisted I put an end to it and let him do it himself. This saddened me. Ironically, the tasks that I break down for him in little chunks, he does quite well. He has made progress, but at his own pace and using other methods that are not used in his classroom.

I couldn’t help myself. I responded to the teacher to remind her that each child is unique and progresses according to his/her individual capabilities, that the mark of an exceptional teacher is not merely to tend to the “A Graders” but to recognise the unique abilities in all the children and build upon them. If only she would assign homework that would actually make sense to the little guy…maybe then, school would not make him so unhappy.

How can we unleash our students’ potential?

1. Accept that all children are not equal: There are at least eight multiple intelligences that we know of. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to assume that there has to be more than one way to teach concepts. Bloom’s Taxonomy can inspire tons of ideas on lesson delivery and creative assignments.

2. Learning should be relatable: Undoubtedly, concepts taught with a deep connection to real life situations are the ones kids retain and analyse more. This includes hands on activities, lot’s of talking and discussions. A class in which there is movement and chatter (conducive to the subject) is one that is alive.

3. Forging the bond of trust: It’s no secret that the kind of relationship a student has with the teacher influences the child’s attitude to a certain subject. In order to get across to the child in a way that would lead to a positive change, a teacher needs to be approachable and non-judgmental. Sometimes, even the most aggressive behavioural issues are just a cry for help. One-on-one counselling can make a huge difference.

4. Encourage reading and writing: Get kids to read, read, and then read some more. Sadly, the passion for reading great literary works, poems and material that broadens perspectives is steadily being lost. Simultaneously, get them to write. Advise them to write journals, articles, blogs, and even random thoughts. In this world of chaos, teach children that writing can bring clarity and calm.

5. Ditch the books: Every once in a while just let loose and talk about issues that matter, depending upon the age group of your students, of course. Talk about racism, global warming, gender bias, and war. Talk about everything under the sun and beyond. Have sessions of reflective conversation.

6. The art of communication: Integral to success in the 21st century workforce and healthy relationships, communication is an essential soft skill.

Just being an ordinary teacher is easy. It is being the force that turns life around for hopeless youngsters, that sets you apart and makes you a great teacher.

By Rahima Jabeen

Rahima conducts teacher training and uses her blog, Young Islamic Minds, to assist parents with their children’s education. Her Facebook page, Unleashing The Teacher Within, is aimed at motivating educators. Rahima also has a makeup review blog, Yet More Makeup.