UNDERSTANDING YOUR LEARNERS BY ODETOLA OLUWAKEMI

A good evening to everyone.😊
My name is Kemi Odetola.
I am a teacher and a trainer, and I love to learn from everything and everyone.
Many thanks to Mr Eben for giving me the opportunity and honour to share on CME platforms.
It’s great to be here!

So today I’ll be sharing on a topic of concern which I believe is one of the core of our practices as educators.
The job of a teacher is such that requires wearing many caps. Among all the stakeholders in the school system, the group we spend time with the most and have a direct impact on is the children.We can safely say then  that the closest customers to the teacher are the learners under them. The responsibilities of a teacher to their learners as we rightly know is not limited to qualification, knowledge, skills, expertise and experience alone.
Some students were once asked by their teacher what they think teachers should know, one of them gave an interesting response, “I think the most important thing teachers need to know is to get to know their students.”

This singular point became more important to me in the last couple of months and I feel it is an important gap that needs to be addressed in our classrooms for better outcomes in teaching and learning processes.

So the topic of discussion is:
*Knowing Your Learners.*

This is a topic I believe many of us are familiar with, but it is important to constantly remind ourselves as we meet with entirely new set of individuals every session.

Someone might want to ask..
Why should I know my learners?

In our increasingly diversifying world, students come from all kinds of backgrounds, social statuses, and cultures.Students walk through the doors of their classrooms each with their own struggles, experiences, and stories.

Is it ideal to stay in the class all year with learners without  knowing important details about them?

Absolutely no!

So we shall be considering a few reasons we need to know our closest stakeholders: the learners.
Contributions will be highly welcomed in this regard.

1.Understanding your pupils’ strengths, weaknesses, and interests will enable you to help them become successful academically.

[03/11, 5:05 pm] Eben Mtn New: 3. The more you know your learners, the more you can teach them in the way that they will learn.
[03/11, 5:05 pm] Eben Mtn New: 2. Knowing and understanding their interests, hobbies, and what is important to them enables the teacher to see them as people, and treat them with kindness and respect.

3. The more you know your learners, the more you can teach them in the way that they will learn.

4. Teachers who know their students well are able to see their struggles with behavior expectations within the larger context of each individual’s particular strengths and gifts.

5. It fosters a positive and healthy relationship between you and your students which is capable of building a sense of belonging and security in them.

So what should you know  about your learners?

I. Their names: I once heard a child respond by saying, ‘My name is not Toffy, my name us Oluwatofarati! I’m very sure the parents must have done well to call him by his full name always, and told him never to answer any short form of his name from anyone.

It is therefore not enough to know a child’s name, but the name their parents would have them called.

For a large class and new students, you need to avoid pointing to them or saying “you!” when you need their attention.

Knowing and calling our pupils by name creates a sense of belonging for the.

It builds in them the awareness that they are members of that environment and gives them the freedom of belonging there.

Let’s gave a quick exercise:

In no particular order, mention the names of your pupils/students?

Which child came to mind first and why?

This will most likely be the child that commands everyone’s attention the most.😄

ii. The interests and hobbies:
Knowing a little of this background helps the teacher understand students and in turn answer question, such as: ‘How can I help this student learn better?’  or ‘What in the student’s life can I relate this topic to so it is interesting?’ This can be achieved in a number of ways some of which are: talking to them, observing them, taking a look at their past records, conducting a survey, using ice breaker games periodically and knowing their interests outside the classroom.

Anyone can stand up and teach a class about any topic, but understanding the students completes a teacher.

You might want to stretch to know this part of your students of you haven’t done so yet, it will be an eye opening exercise!

* ii.Their Interests and Hobbies

iii. Academic background:
This will go a long way to dictate how a child responds to new concepts. It can be so frustrating if your learners cannot find a link between newly introduced concepts and their background knowledge. You might want to bring this up by throwing a point of discussion or an activity that will help diagnose a student’s background knowledge and to what extent. In most cases, from my experience, the academic knowledge of each child differs as a result of factors such as environment, exposure, age and so on.

iv. Personality: Students personalities can range from the shy to the mischievous, low confident, unmotivated, participating, uninvolved and  bossy.
I know different faces are coming to you right now!🤔

Each of these group has a strength you need to leverage on as well as their weaknesses which should be built into a strength.

From time to time you need to encourage the upcomers and give them the platform for growth.

Also you must be careful not to tag them wrongly as this can kill their morale and esteem.

The bossy and participating ones need to be put in check always to guide against excessiveness.

v. Biological/ Health History
The total well being of every child under your care as a teacher is key. Therefore you will do yourself a lot of good by finding out the right information about the child’s health/ medical history to guard against surprises.

I know some of us already do this, but it is important to send a welcome note to your new parents at the beginning of the session asking them to provide you with necessary information regarding the child.
If at any time you notice any health challenge, it is your responsibility to communicate it promptly to the child’s parents or ward. This will help save the child from worse occurrences.

Remember, we are  foster parents!💪🏼

vi. Communication

Your ability to learn and understand your student’s mode of  communication especially in their home environment is pivotal to impacting them in all spheres.

This cuts across all classes in a school system including daycare.

I’ll point your attention to the parents who are the first contact with these children and who have built a strong communication with them from birth.

Just that little information from a parent on potty training, making requests(for toddlers),writing assignments and so on can save you a lot of stress in working with the child.

vii. Motivations:
One of the biggest challenges in the classroom is improving student motivation.

The two types of motivation for learning are intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic learning occurs when the student already has an interest in learning the subject and is inspired internally.

However, extrinsic motivation occurs when other factors, such as a reward or recognition, drive them to participate in class.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to engage students in learning by tapping into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.

Your passion and enthusiasm comes into play especially when you are dealing with students with low self motivation.

By employing a variety of means to make learning appealing, you will be able to create more interest for learning in your class.

Some of the things you can do is openly recognising and rewarding good behaviour and academic achievements.

Building a positive rapport with them.

Sharing your  personal stories that connect with them.
Creating an atmosphere that enables every student express themselves without the fear of being ridiculed or turned down.

Giving roles to each member of the class.

Leveraging on technology, and much more.

Your knowledge of what motivates your learners as well as your creativity as a teacher comes into play here if you really must get them motivated all day, Amen???

viii. Learning style

Everybody is different. It’s a mantra that all good teachers take to heart.

But understanding how to best teach your students takes a lot more than the simple acknowledgment that they’re each different.

You have to know your students, and know how they work.

One way that students can be described as different from each other is their learning style.

To realize what a student’s learning style is, a teacher should develop the ability of reading him/her just like a book.

Understand when a student feels comfortable with an approach or unhappy and help right away.

viii. Habits

You need to understand that your pupils come from different background and environment which have direct influence on their habits.

By studying them and  building a positive and professional relationship with your parents you will be able to learn about some of your learners habits and put measures in place to curb excessive and bad behaviours, and also encourage the good ones.

One point to note, however is to check yourself if your students are not directly or indirectly picking the wrong habits from you!😱
You’ll rightly agree with me that some teachers have them. 🙄

In rounding off this evening, I’ll encourage you to note three points about you learners:

1.  What do I know about my learners?

2. Do my learners know that I know them?

3. What more do I need to know about my learners for better output?

Thank you all for your time.
You can add your contributions  regarding this point of  discussion.