As an educator, it is unfortunate that not every child receives a high standard of education. Upon leaving high school, students around the country are a mixed bag, and professors are often the ones in charge of finding a solution. Although we cannot get through to every student that passes through our doors, we can try. These are the steps I suggest every educator take to give their students the best chance at succeeding in a failing system.
Many students did not achieve to their greatest potential in high school, because they did not feel respected. Often, a lack of respect comes from family or peers, but it can also come from teachers themselves. If you give respect to all of your students, no matter their situation, you will get through, even to a small extent. Keep in mind that giving respect does not mean giving everyone an A, but rather, it’s speaking to someone as though they are your peer, not your inferior.
Once your students open up, either through discussion or assignments, you should easily identify where each student struggles. Some weak points may be more pronounced than others, but I suggest taking some notes, so you have an idea of what should be covered. Tracking trends in students over time can also identify potential disabilities that could prevent a student from succeeding.
It is unfortunate that some students, when offered help, will not accept it. Still, many students are open to help, but are apprehensive to ask for it. Provide a private, non-confrontational way for students to reach out for help. Doing so will allow students to feel safe and comfortable, rather than weak or stupid. You also can reach out to students if you have a good rapport with them, and they may appreciate the sentiment.
Once you have a student who is ready for help, come up with a plan to tackle the issues you identified. Ask for their point of view and see what part of the process was difficult for them. Then, come up with some exercises, or an alternate explanation of the material. You could suggest pairing them up with a student who excels, but many will not take to this. It does not matter what you do, as long as your student is able to improve.
While professors teaching remedial or general education courses can most utilize this strategy to undo prior improper education, any professor can follow these steps to help tutor a student in new material. It is important to remember that you will not get through to everyone, but helping even one student makes a difference in the future. As an educator, this is what I strive to do, and I believe most educators want the same.