6 Keys to Understanding & Encouraging Struggling Students


Sometimes the student who doesn’t seem to care is actually just frustrated.

This is one of my favorite takeaways from my interview with portrait artist Jon Kardamis.

To say that Jon struggled in high school would be putting it mildly. History, math, and English just did not come easily to him.

But he loved art.

students who dont seem to care

As we discuss in the interview, some teachers not only recognized his talents but also saw that he was trying to learn and encouraged him.

Unfortunately, there were other times when Jon was frustrated by a teacher who completely misunderstood him – assuming he didn’t care or wasn’t trying.

This interview has so many great insights from a student’s point of view. Check it out here:

Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

6 Keys to Understanding & Encouraging Struggling Students

  1. Don’t assume a student doesn’t care. Jon would spend hours studying, working with a tutor, and practicing just to make a C- on a test. When his teachers saw his effort and told him they were proud of his C, this encouraged him and made him want to try harder. But his biggest frustration was when teachers just assumed he wasn’t trying or didn’t care. 
     
  2. Connect with what a student is passionate about. When a teacher asked Jon to draw an illustration for the class, that meant so much to him and helped him engage in the class. On the other hand, when teachers belittled what he was passionate about, that just left him feeling frustrated and misunderstood. As a result, he wasn’t very motivated to try in the class. 
     
     Avoid saying things like, “If you would spend half the time studying that you do sketching all these little drawings, you’d do so much better.” Statements like these do way more harm than good. 
     
  1. Realize that students who struggle academically might have talents & future careers in other areas. Jon struggled academically but had incredible talent and potential as an artist. Today he’s the owner of his own portrait-painting business. We teachers can & should push our students to persevere, excel, and pursue careers in areas in which they are skilled. And when we connect academics to what they’re passionate about, they’re much more likely to engage. 
     
  2. Acknowledge that for some students, a C is their best. When a struggling student works hard and makes a C, make sure you acknowledge and encourage that effort. Be careful about statements like “I know you can do better.” While we certainly want to encourage students to do their best, if their best is a C, we do more harm than good by expecting more. 
     
  3. Recognize when a student is frustrated. We often get frustrated when students are struggling and don’t seem to care, but often those students are actually really frustrated themselves. Jon admits that when he got frustrated, he’d often just check out mentally & sleep through the class. Instead of yelling at the student for sleeping, it’d be better to get to the heart of the issue and help the student reengage. 
     
  4. Show the student that you care. Jon talks about how much it means when a teacher takes a few minutes to genuinely engage with a student. Simply show them that you care, that you recognize their struggles, and that you value what they’re passionate about. Jon says that when he knew his teachers cared about him, it really helped motivate him to listen and try his best in that class.

Thanks so much Jon for taking the time to share these insights with us!

Jon Kardamis is an incredible artist & entrepreneur – and he’d be an awesome example to share with your students who have an interest in art.

You can see some of his work here:

Jonathan Kardamis Fine Art Facebook page

JonKardamisFineArt.com

And because I can’t help it, I’m gonna’ go ahead & share a few of his paintings at the end of this post.

As a thank you to all the teachers who helped Jon make it through school and college, Jon is generously offering a 10% discount on all portraits for Teach 4 the Heart readers. Just mention you heard about him through Teach 4 the Heart.

Okay, I’ve just gotta’ tell a little story here. In addition to his incredible talent, Jon also has the incredible privilege of being my brother-in-law :). When he was starting his business, my husband and I decided we wanted help him get started by commissioning him to do a painting.

I thought we’d get a nice piece of art out of the deal, but wow, I just could not imagine how much I would absolutely adore the piece. There’s just something about having a work of art that was created just for you and holds such personal significance. It’s hard to explain, but it’s just about a million times better than a photograph or a piece of art you just bought from the store.

So if you’re looking for a special gift idea or think you’d enjoy a work of art for yourself, you should definitely find out more about what goes into getting a portrait painted (which is, by the way, a fascinating process).

Here’s the painting Jon did of my daughter Calaiya & me (although the picture doesn’t really do it justice):

painting by Jon Kardamis - a mother's tender love

And some of his other works:

Andreea Reading Raela Boo- White Charcoal on Black PaperKyla Final

Click here to check out more of his paintings or to contact Jon.

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Linda Kardamis

I believe that when God calls us to teach, He promises the strength & wisdom to do it well. All we need to do is keep learning, growing, and depending on Him. I'm here to provide practical advice and Biblical encouragement so you'll have the confidence and perspective to not only inspire your students but reach their hearts as well.

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Leigh-Anne - July 20, 2015

There are so many young people who struggle with their school work and it really hits their self-esteem so badly so much so that they start isolating themselves from people or worse they quit school or bully other kids. parents need to check their children’s work and performance on a regular basis and if they struggle get them the help that they need. because nothing is impossible kids need to know this before they get old. it’s never too late or too early to get a tutor for your child. visit our website for more information

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Natasha Jessica Collins - July 25, 2015

These artworks are incredible!

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