Monday, July 20, 2009

Just another face in the crowd?

Do you know how to recognize when a student needs help?

Sure, their test scores suffer. Maybe they don't seem to be following along in class. Perhaps they're not even coming to class. But when you are teaching 100+ students, and that's just one class, how are you to know?

Unfortunately, the students who really need help are often invisible. They're the ones who show up for the final exam and you don't recognize them. You know their names but not what they look like. You're surprised at the end of the semester that they're still enrolled.

Some of us take the time to try to contact these students. We ask them to come and see us in our offices (although as one student recently told me, if he were failing he'd be too embarrassed to come see the instructor). Maybe we write "See me" on the bottom of a term paper that never gets picked up. We email and hope that they check their school account every once in a while, even if it's just for discounted football tickets.

Some of these students are struggling because they're too wrapped up in the non-scholastic side of college life. I imagine some didn't come prepared with the skills they need for college and now don't know how to get help (or are too afraid to ask). Some, I'm afraid, may be calling out for help.

The U of U Counseling Center has some great resources available to help you identify what may be more than just irresponsibility and potentially a warning sign of a serious problem. They'll help you identify red flags, learn how to talk to a student who may be in danger of hurting themselves or others, and also provide free and reduced-rate counseling services to students seeking help.

My only question now is how can we reach these students? Do we keep sending emails into the over-loaded inbox that they never check? Do we tackle them at the door of the classroom before they can disappear? What can we do if they refuse our help?

My answer right now is to just keep trying and hopefully just knowing that someone is paying attention and is concerned will have some impact.

Photo by Edgar Zuniga Jr.

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