How to Encourage Students Who Feel Like They Do Not Fit In
People often feel like they don't fit in. They don't like modern music, literature and art, so they feel like their soul belongs somewhere in the 18th century. They don't like different aspects of society, so they feel like they belong somewhere in the future, when no poverty would exist. We assume that the feeling of not belonging is normal, so we don't pay much attention when students are in question.
That's a mistake.
When we notice that kids don't like school or stay isolated from all their classmates, it's a problem. Sociologists from the University of Texas in Austin found that students who feel like they don't fit in are less likely to attend college. That's not the biggest problem. Someone could be perfectly happy if they choose not to go to college. But in this case, the kids are not happy. Childhood social problems affect them deeply not only on emotional, but on intellectual and academic level as well.
No; teachers and parents should not just leave these students to cope with the struggle of not fitting in all by themselves. Something can be done, and something should be done.
Let's go through a few methods that teachers may rely on, so they can encourage these students to make that effort to fit in.
1. Make the Classroom a Friendly Environment
There are many reasons for a student to feel like they don't fit in:
There are tons of reasons why someone may feel alone in a room full of people. You can never know what's going inside their heads, but you may assume if you pay individual attention to each student. What you can do is create a supportive environment, where there's no judgment. Teach your students to be open to differences and treat everyone equally, no matter what their background is.
- Maybe they don't have a smartphone or tablet, so they cannot be part of a flipped classroom program. Maybe they do have a device, but they don't know how to use it.
- Maybe they come from a family that struggles financially, so they can't buy all materials for school and they don't have nice clothes to wear.
- Maybe a student comes from a rich family and they don't fit in the environment that judges them for that.
- A student may be overweight and feel incredibly uncomfortable about their appearance.
- Maybe someone is dyslexic and the other kids ridicule them for that disadvantage.
You can start by setting a good example.
2. Find Out What These Kids Are Interested InWhen you notice that a student can't fit in the classroom environment, maybe you can create an environment that will be more suitable for their interests.
Everyone is good at something. If you notice this student has artistic skills, suggest a relevant activity that will tap into their interests. If this student loves reading and writing, suggest them to join the school's book club. If it's someone who's good at sports, encourage them to participate in the school's team.
When you place these students in a group of students with similar interests, they will bond on the basis of the shared passion. Once they make their first friends, it will be easier for them to fit into the school environment.
3. Encourage Engagement
Some students don't fit in because they are too shy. Social anxiety is a serious issue that may affect their entire life if not addressed on time.
If you notice that being part of social situations is a problem for some of your student's, you'll have to help them out. Most teachers do that by avoiding bringing these students in front of the class, since they know that causes discomfort. That's not the right thing to do. You should encourage them to speak up, but you have to make the situation as convenient as possible for them.
Emphasize their skills and talents. Believe in their potential and show your support. Encourage teamwork, since it's easier for socially anxious people to make contributions when being part of a group. They don't feel the pressure of the spotlight that way.
However, you should also encourage autonomous work and help them promote their work in front of the class. They can do it with your help. When these students get exposed to public speaking, they have real troubles at first. With time and practice, however, they can get much better.
Fitting in is important when you're a kid. We can allow students to be individuals, but we must still encourage the development of their social skills. That's another one of a teacher's many responsibilities.
About author: Olivia is an incurable optimist who always sees the glass as half-full. She likes nature, knows how to enjoy silence and is keen on writing for various websites as well as for https://www.aussiewritings.com. Meet her on Facebook and Twitter.