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Dean of student services at Devereux’s Glenholme School discusses ways to engage students in learning


Morgan Fulks

Devereux Connecticut – The Glenholme School Dean of Student Services Morgan Fulks, M.Ed., recently shared how to best meet the unique learning needs of students living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the U.S.

When it comes to engaging students in learning, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Connecticut – The Glenholme School Dean of Student Services Morgan Fulks, M.Ed., believes teachers must tap into students’ strengths and interests.

Recently, Fulks shared how to best meet the unique learning needs of students living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences. Look below to read his firsthand account.

“As dean of student services at The Glenholme School, I get to work with an amazingly talented group of educators and an exceptionally diverse population of gifted and talented students on a daily basis. It has also afforded me the opportunity to answer an important question in the field that has been gaining momentum throughout my career: ‘How do you motivate an unmotivated student?’

The first, and most important step is to understand the flaw of the question itself. Research shows that young people identify in the same manner as they are identified by authority figures in their life. Being labeled as ‘unmotivated’ is counterproductive to the goal of building motivation in young people.

A better question to ask is: ‘How can I engage this student in the class?’

The ability to answer this question hinges on the rapport and connection one has with a student. The more authentic conversations a teacher can have with a student, the more information an educator will have to connect with them. For example, an artistic student may not know that geometric principles directly relate to the usage of space in graphic design. However, a teacher with knowledge of the student’s interests can explicitly connect their passions and talents in art to the corresponding areas of the content being taught. This helps the student see the purpose and usefulness of the class.

An educator also needs to acknowledge the inherent vulnerability a student experiences in the learning process, and take the necessary steps to make them feel safe and secure in these situations. Unfortunately, students with learning differences have experienced far more difficulties in the classroom, making them more reticent to ask for help. Many times, they believe raising their hands for help will cast them in a negative light among their peers.

Author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou put it best when she said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ When a teacher takes steps to allow students to feel safe taking educational risks, this is when engagement, motivation and, ultimately, learning, skyrocket.

Finally, it is vital for educators to provide praise for students throughout the learning process to support their engagement. Offering a student a compliment after they have worked through a tough situation will help them persevere. Commenting on their tremendous writing skills, or how they are so caring with their peers, helps them see themselves in a different light. The best outcome to these supports is that a student begins to identify as a hard worker, a budding writer and a good friend.

Truth be told, I was not a terribly motivated student, but I am forever grateful to those teachers who instilled in me a lifelong love of learning by asking the question: ‘How do I engage this student?’

I count myself lucky to work alongside dedicated teachers at The Glenholme School who ask this very question every single day, and change lives in the process.”

Learn more about Devereux Connecticut – The Glenholme School, and learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.


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