The #1 Reason Why Your ELLs Struggle in School

One of the biggest challenges we face as teachers is figuring out why some students are able to learn the material while others are not.

When a student doesn’t get it, we may feel responsible, guilty, embarrassed, frustrated, and we start looking for an explanation.

Maybe it’s the student’s fault…

  1. They didn’t listen.
  2. They didn’t try.
  3. They weren’t thinking.
  4. They didn’t care.
  5. They wanted to make my life difficult.

Maybe it’s my fault…

  1. I didn’t explain it well enough.
  2. I didn’t make it interesting enough.
  3. I didn’t help enough.
  4. I wasn’t creative enough.

Maybe it’s the parents’ fault…

  1. They let their kid watch too much TV.
  2. They don’t provide a safe, healthy home environment where learning is prioritized.
  3. They let their kid eat too much sugar.

Maybe it’s the system’s fault…

  1. The textbooks are terrible.
  2. I just don’t have enough time with my students.
  3. I have to spend all my time preparing students for standardized tests.
  4. I don’t have enough support.

These are all important factors, and all worth considering, but many students do just fine under these circumstances.

There is a more fundamental reason than any of those mentioned above.

The #1 reason our students struggle has to do with their beliefs about learning and school.

Mistaken beliefs about learning and school can completely debilitate a child’s ability to learn.

Here are a few of the most common beliefs I see affecting students’ learning:

1. They think that learning should be easy. When it is not, when they don’t get it right away, or don’t get it right the first time, they get frustrated and give up.

2. They think their learning is someone else’s responsibility, like the teacher’s or the parents’. If they don’t get it, it’s someone else’s fault. They wait around until someone else helps them do it.

3. They think that learning is something unwanted, something imposed on them that gets in the way of what they really want to do, like playing with their toys or watching TV. These students try to get everything done as quickly as humanly possible, so they can go do what they really want to do.

What other reasons have you found that cause students to struggle? Leave me a note in the comments!

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