The number of students requiring additional support can be daunting. Having the mindset to save one at a time might just get us there.
*This video contains graphic images*
Based off a true story, Hacksaw Ridge depicts Desmond Doss’ story during World War II. Desmond was a conscientious objector, who refused to carry a weapon or take another man’s life. Serving as an army medic, Desmond carried 75 men to safety at the Battle of Okinawa earning him the Medal of Honor.
In this scene, Desmond is shown saving numerous wounded soldiers by pulling them from the battlefield and belaying them off the cliff. After each man he saves Desmond prays, “Please Lord, help me get one more.” Being one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific (approximately 160,000 combined casualties), if Desmond were to think about the sheer number of men needing medical attention, he surely would have been overwhelmed. However, by focusing on one man at a time, he was able to save 75 lives.
As a principal I have access to a variety of data. Data is extremely helpful when making decisions, but can be overwhelming. I work at a school with over 1,200 students. When you start talking about 20% of students not performing on grade level or 10% exhibiting negative behaviors, you are dealing with hundreds of students. It can be hard to know where to start. It can be disheartening thinking about the possibility of not reaching every child.
One thing I do to combat these challenges is ensuring data has a face and that we treat students independently. Whether it is intervention meetings, administrative meetings, parent meetings, grade level meetings, or any other type of meeting it is imperative that when discussing how to best support a student, you do so with that particular child in mind. No two students are the same and therefore no two solutions will be exactly the same. When you talk about a group of students it is easy to make generalizations. When you talk about one student it is easy to make a plan.
Through diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments, teachers have a strong understanding of their students’ needs. As mentioned earlier, no two students are alike, and therefore the same amount of time and effort needed to meet a student at their level will differ greatly across a classroom. Some students will require a large amount of teacher time and others will require a minimal amount of guidance.
The key is providing each student with the appropriate support needed to grow. Academically, this may mean differentiating instruction so that each student has access to the content. Behaviorally, a teacher may need to check-in with a student once a week to gauge how he is feeling. Socially, extra thought about partner assignments may need to be given to support students more anxious about peer interactions. The needs of the student should dictate the support provided by the school.
When educators stop focusing on performance metrics and start focusing on students, great things happen. If you start to get overwhelmed, just ask, “Please Lord, help me get one more.”