My husband and I have been watching the show “Shameless.” Its premise is how five siblings raise themselves because they have an alcoholic father and drug addict mother. The show portrays their struggles as they navigate life in Southside Chicago. Each character has their own unique struggles when it comes to school and being successful with education. Most all of their struggles stem from situational and affective issues rather than ability issues. It really got me thinking about education and the struggles that many of our students face and what we as educators can do to support our students.
I’ve had students before that come unprepared and seem distracted. Although some may simply not care, I’m sure that more often than not, they are dealing with difficult life circumstances. They may genuinely care about the class and want to succeed, but there are things outside of class that are making success a struggle.
It’s my opinion that education, especially in a language classroom, is not solely academic; it’s also affective. Especially in the beginning, I include community building activities designed to bring the class together and lower fear and anxiety about the class.
This particular activity is aimed at bringing students together to acknowledge struggles and work together to brainstorm solutions. If students share struggles at the beginning, they may get great ideas from others about how to deal with particular obstacles. They may also feel more comfortable asking for advice should they face a particular challenge during the semester.
- Pass out the handout and ask students to individually write down obstacles that they anticipate facing during the semester. (Depending on the level, you may want to work with the word “obstacle” before starting the activity)
- Once students have written down their ideas, put students into groups of 3-4 and ask them to share with their group members the things they wrote down.
- Ask them to see if they share any similar obstacles with others on their team.
- Next, have them select the top four or five obstacles and brainstorm solutions to each obstacle.
- Finally, have them prepare a poster and present to the class about the obstacles and the solutions they came up with. Hang the posters around the class as reminders throughout the semester.