Helping Struggling Students

Gertie finds it difficult to reconcile the high academic challenge that is part of the school's mission with students who struggle but do not always succeed in her classes. She thinks these students are working hard but not finding success, and she does not know how to meet their needs while remaining true to the school's mission.

Gertie’s review for an upcoming test reveals some discrepancies in student knowledge.

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Megan feels unprepared her biology test.

Gertie is reviewing for the first semester exam in her biology class. Megan, one of her hardest working students, asks questions that show she does not understand much of the material, although clearly she is trying. Sometimes Megan asks questions that were just asked, and when Gertie points this out gently, it obviously raises Megan’s anxiety.

Gertie hopes a student conference will address some of Megan’s struggles.

Gertie meets with Megan after class and asks her how the class is going. Megan responds she enjoys the class, but she is very anxious about the upcoming exam. She believes she is unprepared. She has started studying but is having difficulty remembering material. Megan is getting much less sleep, because she is anxious.

Gertie praises Megan for her genuine effort and excellent attitude. She offers Megan some suggestions—work on taking better notes in class and consider making and using flashcards. Gertie observes, in her inimitable British style, that a “confuddlement of words” impairs Megan’s performance. Gertie tells Megan that Dr. Bormouth, the learning specialist, is sure to have some helpful ideas. She decides to investigate.

Dr. Bormouth equips Gertie with new instructional strategies.

Gertie visits Dr. Bormouth, the school’s learning specialist, to review Megan’s difficulties and to seek guidance. She tells Bormouth that Megan is a hard worker who has great difficulty learning the material. Gertie understands the need to slow the pace for Megan, but at the same time she feels compelled to forge ahead with the rest of the class. Carol’s frustration is palpable.

Dr. Bormouth explains what may seem obvious to many experienced teachers, but is often overlooked by neophytes: students differ in needs and abilities, which means teachers must be ready to differentiate instruction.

Gertie heads out, armed with new ideas and renewed hope. She believes students who have learning difficulties need help and understanding, and she feels up to the challenge.