I tell all the students that I work with 1:1 and in my workshops, at both primary and secondary schools, to ‘Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher for help’! Unfortunately for many it is not as simple as just telling them this, seeing them take this on board, following through and then actually asking the teacher for assistance when they need it.
In recent discussions I have had with other Academic Life Coaches around the world they too are finding that seeking help from teachers is a bigger issue for students than it really ought to be. It is time that this all changed and that students understand the importance of asking!
Why has this become an issue?
I cannot pinpoint when in time this started to become an issue but what I can do is give you some reasons why my fellow Academic Coaches and myself feel students don’t seek out help as often as they should. These include:
- that anyone that asks for help is a loser and it can be they feel a loss of face. Only the other day in a questionnaire, that I ask my students to complete before I start working with them, here’s a response from a Year 8 student – “I feel uncomfortable to ask anything because I feel like I will look stupid”.
- students believe that they should be able to work this out on their own – this is something I regularly hear too.
- feeling that as students they should be independent and strong and that seeking help can be a sign of weakness.
- it can be seen as being shameful in many communities to admit you can’t do everything on your own without any assistance.
- some high-achieving students feel like talking to the teacher is “cheating” because they are getting extra help. They can sometimes feel that they got themselves into the problem and then need to get themselves out of it.
Rightly or wrongly it is such a shame that in this day and age that we still have this issue and it is time to start doing something about it – hence why I am highlighting this by writing this article. In order to learn students need to be able to ask questions as they go which can assist to build their knowledge at the time.
What can we do about it?
In the coaching I do with students I regularly discuss this issue and explain why seeking help from a teacher is so important and that they are, in most instances, there to help and assist as students require it.
Only last week did I instruct several of my 1:1 student clients to seek more advice when they don’t understand something rather than leave it too late and they have then moved onto the next topic. If they don’t seek help as they go this is not useful to their learning and is harder to do this as a test or exam approaches.
I actually had another student who struggles with identifying how long homework or assignment tasks should take him and he just tries to work this out himself. Unfortunately this often sees him spend way too much time on a task and then he finds he has little time for others. I explained to him that it would be useful to ask his teachers how long he should spend on particular tasks which will then allow him to use this as a guide for his time and allow him to get better at estimating this himself. Not only a great learning tool for school but for life!
I also usually encourage students to seek help in a classroom environment by saying that they are most likely not the only ones who have a similar question or need to know something in particular. However if students lack the confidence to seek help in the classroom environment then there are other options like making a time to see the teacher before or after class or even sending them an email.
Often one of the biggest problems for students in asking for help is that they often do not know what to say, how to approach a teacher or what to actually ask about. When I work with my students I like to ensure they know how to do this rather than just assume they do which can often be part of the problem itself. Not all children have these skills and they can take time to develop. It might well be worth having a discussion with your child to ask them if they know what to do when they are stuck on something. If you do have a child that might struggle, with the concept of seeking help, then there are some great ideas in this link as to how to ask their teacher for help.
I know many teachers actually regularly offer time for students to ask questions or remind them to seek help if they need it. I encourage teachers to continue to do this and make themselves accessible to students so we can continue to break down the barriers of the perceptions I noted at the beginning of this article. It would be great for teachers, time permitting of course, to have Q&A sessions during class to model and normalise this or let students know regularly that they are here to ‘check in with’.
If you are reading this article and agree with what I am talking about then I encourage you to share this where possible so we (parents, teachers, academic coaches and others) can tackle this issue head on and take away any stigmas that appear to be attached with seeking help. If students need assistance then they should feel comfortable in doing so.
If you would like to discuss this article or would like to have a chat about how I might be able to assist your child please get in touch – via email or give me a call on 0409 967 166.