Some students will require assistance due to medical, behavioural or cognitive issues. However, teens are often reluctant to draw attention to themselves. Some students have notice that frustration or distress is imminent and may need a break from the classroom or a specific intervention from a teacher. This may include:
- Students with Oppositional Defiance who may be aware of increasing frustration
- Students with sensory issues who are feeling overwhelmed
- Students on the autism spectrum who may require ‘time to themselves’
- Students who are being subtly taunted by other students
- Students for whom the task exceeds their capabilities
The use of discrete signals between teacher and student can be very useful:
- To avoid lesson disruption
- To prevent unwanted behaviours
- To acknowledge the need for assistance
- To indicate confidence in answering questions
Discrete signals are usually non-verbal:
- An item moved to a strategic place on the desk
- A physical gesture such as resting the head upon an elbow
- Raising the pointer finger, out of view of other students
Code words or phrases, pre-determined with students may also be effective.
These signals can also work to the teacher’s advantage. Proximity to some students is essential in preventative and ongoing behaviour management. For example:
- Standing beside a student with ADHD when addressing the class is useful in limiting opportunities for attention-seeking behaviour.
- It can also be reassuring for students with poor self-esteem. Be aware of student needs as simply standing near a student or touching their desk as you walk by can be accepted as individual attention or praise without drawing unwanted attention from other students.
- It may assist in keeping students on-task. Students working from a personal checklist may enjoy being able to signal their movement on to the next task without having to disrupt the flow of the lesson
Be sure to work out appropriate signals with students individually. Those on the autism spectrum, for example, may not notice eye contact or facial expressions and may prefer to develop a system that works uniquely for them.