Understanding Student Needs

Aug 15, 2016 by

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann MS, LPC –

Teen Angst Understanding Student Needs A guide for educators first day of school

With boxes in hand, Ms. James unlocked the door and walked into her classroom. She placed her belongings on her desk and took a quick glance around the room. The bulletin boards were bare and the chairs were propped on top of the desks. The floor was glossy with wax and the smell of fresh paint filled the air. She could already envision her students sitting at the desks eager to learn. Her mind quickly began to bring the room to life with colorful wall hangings, and decorative ideas she had borrowed from other teachers or got off of the Internet. Soon she’d be making her classroom a fun and engaging place. Ms. James was excited to begin a new school year, because she knew this was going to be the best year yet!

Each year teachers are privileged to touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. Their enthusiasm and optimism are often met with the harsh reality that many children don’t have a lot of the necessary resources, skills or support they need to fully enjoy their educational experience. However, by recognizing student needs and meeting them where they are, teachers can have a deep and profound effect on the academic experience. The insights below highlight some of the common needs students have when they show up on the first day of school.
Monkey Business/Deposit Photos
Source: Monkey Business/Deposit Photos

Five Insights that can Improve a Child’s Education…

1. Not every child has the basic supplies.

According to the Kids In Need Foundation, more than 16 million children live in extreme poverty in the U.S. and arrive on the first day of school without the basic supplies. With many systems experiencing budget cuts, schools are asking parents to help supply tissues, hand sanitizer, crayons and the list goes on and on. According to Huntington Bank’s 2015 Backpack Index parents could expect to pay the following amount per child for the academic year:

• $649 for elementary school children

• $941 for middle school children

• $1,402 for high school students

As a teacher, your student and his/her parents may or may not share their financial hardships with you. When a family has to live from paycheck to paycheck, school supplies are at the bottom of the list of priorities.

2. Not every child has access to technology.

Many educational systems are pushing for students and parents to the use the Internet to complete classwork, communicate with staff, look up school-wide events, and access their child’s grades. Sure, technology saves a lot of money, and makes communication to home a lot easier, but what about the children who don’t have online access at home? According to the Pew Research Center an estimated five million families are without technology and are struggling to keep up. As an educator, it’s important to remember to make assignments/information accessible for all students as well as their families.

3. Not all parents are involved with their child’s education.

The positive effects of parental involvement have been demonstrated at both the elementary and secondary levels across several studies, with the largest effects occurring at the elementary level. Research has shown that students with parents who are involved in their education show fewer behavioral problems and perform better academically. They are also more likely to complete high school as compared to students whose parents are not involved. While many parents express wanting to be a part of their child’s education, there are barriers. These barriers include anything from inability to help with homework, to lack of financial resources, to lack of transportation. So, when parents aren’t involved, think of innovative ways to maneuver around the barriers that prohibit them from participating.

4. Not every child has it easy academically.

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America approximately 2.4 million students are diagnosed with a learning disability (LD) and receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This represents 41% of all students receiving special education services. Children with learning disabilities often struggle academically. As a teacher, it is essential to identify the signs and symptoms of a learning disability. Early identification and intervention can help a child not only academically, but also personally and socially.
Monkey Business/Deposit Photos
Source: Monkey Business/Deposit Photos

5. Every child comes to your class with a story.

Each child comes to your room with a story. Don’t just buy into what you see on the surface level, but take time to get to know your students. When you show a genuine interest they will respond and connect with you. You are an influential role model in their lives and you can have a positive impact on their educational experience. It’s a great responsibility to be an educator, because it’s not just about teaching – it’s about forming relationships.

Every teacher has a different approach to the first few days of school. Whether you are off to the local art store to decorate your classroom or combing through various lesson plans to help engage your students, take time to… Think about the child who may not come to your classroom with all of the necessary supplies. Think about how you can actively engage students who lack electronic accessibility. Think about how you can involve the parents who aren’t able to make it to the after school meetings. Most importantly, think of innovative ways to connect with your students.

To all of the educators reading this – Thank you for all that you do to enrich the life of a child… Wishing you a successful start to the upcoming school year!


Barnyak, Natalie Conrad and McNellly, Tracy A. “An Urban School District’s Parent Involvement: A Study of Teachers’ and Administrators’ Beliefs and Practices.” The School Community Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2009.

Child Trends. (2013). Parental involvement in schools. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=parental-involvement-in-schools

Source: Understanding Student Needs | Psychology Today

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