How to Be Successful in the Classroom as a Student


I often counsel students on how to be successful in the classroom setting. They are usually sitting with me after their behavior has been addressed by their teacher a few times and they are still having a little difficulty. The conversations range from simple adjustments (seating arrangements, call home, stern talk, etc.) to complete overhauls (Parent/teacher conferences, referral to a social worker, meetings to determine cognitive challenges etc.). After a few years counseling students about classroom behavior, I have nearly used every piece of advice imaginable. One, in particular, makes the most sense to me and can be used throughout the adult lives of students as well. I know this because it’s basic, strong advice that I use often. Listen, watch, learn, apply. Here is what I tell students:

Listen: I tell students to listen closely to the words coming out of the mouths of their teachers. Volume and tone matter just as much as the words. If they can cue in on what the teacher is saying and deduce how and why the teacher is saying it, they can determine their next steps of success in the classroom. This also applies to teachers and other professionals listening to peers, subordinates and supervisors. A lot of us hear, but don’t listen. We are so interested in what we are going to say next, we miss the nuances of the message sent and many times don’t respond satisfactorily with insight and understanding.

Watch: Keep an eye on what the teacher is saying without saying it. Body language serves as a large part of communication and many miss it. Posture, hand gestures, crossed arms, smiles, frowns, furrowed brows, eye contact all tell a story. Listen to what the teacher is saying and how they are saying it, intonation and gestures matter. Also pay attention to what gets positive attention and what gets negative attention and practice what gets positive attention.

Learn: No student comes to school to fail but learning how to be successful can take some practice. Each teacher is a little different in their approach but they all want the same thing: student growth. Learn what you can do to make your class time most productive. If you have a question, raise your hand and wait. Be patient and wait your turn for assistance. The trouble in class sometimes begins with frustration in the material being taught and the insistence that questions be answered immediately. Students need to learn how to wait to get what they want. They also need to be patient with themselves. They may really love math and dislike reading. They need to be convinced it is all important.

Apply: They need to use their new toolbox as soon as they can and they need to report back to you the results of their observations. You also need to be proactive about seeking them out and following up on their progress. Always let them know that they may fall on their face a few times before they get the hang of their new skill but, they learned how to crawl before they walked and walked before they ran so they must give it time.

As an administrator, let the teachers know what you told the student. Allow them to assist in getting this young one on track. Always remember to document your conversations so you can refer back to them should further measures need to be taken.