We asked nail school instructors: How do you approach teaching a class of students with diverse backgrounds (the older senior student, the very young/teen student, the student with a troubled background)?
When I teach I make sure to engage everyone — older students who maybe took a leap of faith going to cosmetology school, the student with a troubled background siting off in a corner by herself. I make it clear that no question is dumb, and I also share my stories of success in the beauty business. It gives all students something to strive for.
Angela Saul, Backscratchers Educator, Grand Rapids, Mich.
I make sure to get to know each student as an individual instead of just teaching a “class” of anonymous people. Every student has a different type and degree of life experience, and you have to respect that or the student is not going to be receptive to you. I try to find out why each student has chosen to enroll and why this is important to her or him so I can make my lessons as personal as I can whenever possible. I’ve found that many times older students lack confidence because they’ve been out of the classroom for many years and they need to be reminded that they actually have an advantage because of their maturity and life experience. Conversely, some very young students lack confidence because they might not have done well in school in the past or because they lack life experience and are timid. It’s all a matter of letting each student know that you respect and care for them and are on their side. You have to let them know that you want them to succeed because their success is your success.
Terry Nooser, Fresno, Calif.
Because of the different learning styles, it can be quite a challenge when you have different generations represented in the same class. However, first and foremost the student must feel respected regardless of age, background, or how much they already know or don’t know about the subject. When people feel respected and not judged, they respond better to new or different information. So my first course of action is to do an icebreaker on the first day and get to know why the student chose to attend our school and what their goals are for the future in this industry. I tell them my story and how I came to be an instructor and let them know that I started out just like them — scared, excited, filled with anticipation of the possibilities, etc. I talk to them about the importance of having team spirit and also mention that everyone who passes the threshold of the campus needs to leave the “I cant’s,” “I’m a slow learner,” “I’ve never been good at art,” etc., at the front door. There are no mistakes here, just learning opportunities. I often hear the sigh of relief among the students, and I tell them to buckle up because it’s a fast and exciting ride to graduation.
Jessica Taylor, Senior Instructor, Honolulu Nail Academy, Honolulu
Although it may sound challenging to deal with a diverse group of students, it isn't that difficult at all. I would say that the best approach I have used is to get to know my students better and to acknowledge that everyone learns differently and has different interests. I like my students to feel comfortable, but I also like to take them out of their comfort zone. This is when I mix and match the class in groups and put them together to work. This allows for understanding of each other.
Billy Anthony Rivera, Miami
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