How Do You Help a Student Who Feels Hopeless?

By Dr. Bruce A. Johnson

The start of a new class always carries with it a sense of hope for students and their instructor. This is a time when students are the most likely to listen, read the assigned materials, and make an attempt to complete the required learning activities. From an instructor's perspective, there is an expectation that students are ready to learn and want to learn the course topics. For the most part, students will begin the class by making an effort, at least initially. After the first week of class, reality settles in and this is the time when students will either continue to try, or their effort will wane.

When students make an attempt to understand the course materials, and for some reason they cannot comprehend what they are reading, or they do not understand how to complete an assignment, these challenges can create a turning point for them. If they do not know how to ask for help, or they feel the need to express their frustrations in an unproductive manner, it may just be easier to give up.

Students who are enrolled in an online class find it even more challenging as they may feel as if they are working on their own. Their instructors may not know of their struggles until after the end of the class week, when the due date for an assignment has passed and a student has not submitted anything. By that point it may be too late to get the student back on track, especially with an accelerated degree program.

What makes getting behind even more challenging are the negative feelings associated with it. In my experience as an educator, the longer students feel frustrated, the more hopeless they are likely to become in the long term. Their attitude may shift from "I'm not sure" to "I don't know" to "I can't" as a final disposition. When students reach that point, rehabilitation becomes very challenging for instructors.

What I ask myself, and I ask other educators as well, is this: What are you willing to do to help prepare your students ahead of time to avoid this situation from occurring? How do you encourage your students as they make an attempt to be involved in the learning process? Do you recognize their struggles? More importantly, when you know they have given up, what do you do or what are you willing to do to help them get back on track?

The Hopeful Student

Every student starts out hopeful to some degree when they begin a class. A new class represents an opportunity to continue to make progress, or make improvements if the last class did not result in a positive outcome. Even if students are apprehensive about their new instructor, or what might be expected for their performance in class, rarely do they feel hopeless when the class begins. Some students may lose their sense of determination after the first week, and they find out what the reality of the class will be like. However, the initial willingness to participate and be involved is there.

The hopeful student has outward signs which include being actively engaged and present in class, along with submitting their assignments on time. This is also a time when they are likely to be the most responsive to their instructor, as to listening and/or responding to feedback provided. This is when initial impressions are made and new working relationships are formed. Students will remain in this state until the first challenge is experienced, which may be as early as the first week, when they attempt to read the assigned materials or complete the required learning activities.

When looking at the many qualities a student needs to be successful, hope may not be the first one every educator puts on their list. However, I have discovered that it is hope which motivates students in the first place to begin a degree program, whether they hope to make a change in their job, career, or life. If a student has hope, they likely believe it is possible to make the change they are seeking or want. If I can nurture that feeling, and connect it to the effort they are making, it can serve as a powerful source of motivation for them and sustain them when they are faced with challenges. This is especially important as the reality of weekly course expectations settles in and students work to complete the required learning activities.

The Hopeless Student

As a student experiences the learning process, and interacts with the instructor and class, there are going to be emotions experienced. For example, a student may feel as if this is a productive environment and one in which they can learn, and be supported while they attempt to complete what is expected. That is one of many potential positive emotions a student may experience. There may also be negative emotions felt and those feelings can have a direct impact on the sense of hope a student has about their ability to succeed, or at least complete what is expected of them.

Also consider how a student interacts with the classroom environment and the potential triggers which cause emotional reactions. The learning process is sensory by nature. Students read, listen, write, think, process, understand, and comprehend information while they are actively involved in their studies. For an online class, the hands-on aspect of learning is missing and yet the overall experience is still the same. This is a process of mental engagement and through engagement of the mind, there can be emotional trigger points experienced.

As an example, questions from a student are an indicator something has been triggered. In contrast, an aggressive tone within something a student has communicated indicates a different type of emotional trigger. Triggers are often related to sticking points and conflict. Students may not understand something they are reading, they cannot complete a required task, they may lack a specific skill, or anything else related.

If students can manage the resulting feelings triggered, and find help or answers, the problem or issue experienced becomes resolved. However, if they cannot receive assistance when needed, or find answers on their own, the negative emotions felt may continue to build. This is when frustration can turn to aggression, or feeling stuck can lead to a sense of defeat. If left unchecked long enough, students may be left with a feeling of hopelessness regarding their ability to learn.

The Helpful Instructor

Can these negative feelings experienced by students be avoided or prevented? It is likely an instructor cannot always state with certainty every student will feel happy at all times; however, there are steps which can be taken to minimize the impact of negative feelings and prevent those feelings from escalating into long term issues.

Become an Active Participant: An instructor sets the tone of the class, and this includes how accessible and responsible he/she will be for students. If a class is to be student-centered, instructors must be involved as active participants. Students need to see their instructors as someone who teaches, manages the class, and has empathy for the student experience.

Help Students Prepare: An instructor must also be looking ahead and try to foresee potential issues and problems which may be experienced, and help students prepare. For example, there may be a challenging assignment due at the end of the week and an instructor knows from prior classes the areas in which students have struggled. One method of preparing students could include posting tips and suggestions, to help them plan ahead.

Watch for Signs of a Struggle: Instructors need to also be alert for signs of a struggle within students and intervene with a caring attitude. These signs can be evident in discussion responses, missed deadlines, or the tone of communication. A challenge for instructors is upholding school policies while helping students who are in need. Whenever exceptions need to be made, and it goes beyond the authority provided as a faculty member, this is the time to contact the school and explain the situation. Acting as an authoritarian does not build relationships, but demonstrating warmth while coaching and guiding students does.

Classroom management is a matter of providing controlled guidance and maintaining active involvement in your class. When students know their instructors are available, active, and present, they are more likely to feel hopeful about the class, their role in the process of learning, and their ability to succeed. If you can nurture positive feelings within your students, they are going to be much more willing to try to complete their required tasks, participate in discussions, and even make mistakes along the way, as they know someone is there to help them. This is one of the most positive aspects of adult learning, when students feel hopeful and engaged in class.

Dr. J's mission is to teach, write, and inspire others as an academic educator, leader, author, writer, and mentor.

Dr. J writes blog posts, articles, and books to inform, inspire, and empower readers. To learn more about resources that are available for educators, along with career and professional development, please visit:

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A Guide For Future Undergrads

By Shalini Madhav

Choosing a good undergraduate program can be a difficult task for you. In this article, you will know some important factors that you should take into account for choosing your bachelor degree without any problem.

Selection of an institution

First of all, you need to choose a good institute. You should not underestimate the importance of getting your degree from one of the best schools or universities. What you need to do is make sure that the institute you are going to choose is renowned for its services. However, keep in mind that even the top university may have its weaknesses.

Consider the alumni network

Your school or university will be more than that. It will be a strong alumni network for you. When considering different universities, we suggest that you also take into account its alumni network. Not all of the alumni networks offer the same level of efficiency. As a matter of fact, the alumni network of a small institution will be more efficient.

Your career

Make sure that the study program you choose will help you make a career in your desired field. Nowadays, companies expect that young graduates should be knowledgeable, operational and adaptable. You need to be able to understand the complexities of the world of business. Moreover, you should be able to change according to the changes in the organization you are working in.

Employment statistics

You should go for a program that won't close the doors for you down the road. It may be fascinating to study some subjects. But do you really want to study a certain topic for three years despite knowing that it won't take you far enough in the field? Did you look at the employment statistics for the degree holders of that subject? Nowadays, employers look at the relevance between the qualifications of the candidates and the jobs they are offering.

International university

Did you do your research to find out if the university you are considering offers scholarships for students to study abroad? Learning is more fun if you study in a university where students from various cultures sit together in the same room.

Content matters

Do you know the content that you will get? Often, students don't give much importance to the teaching style of teachers in the universities. Some schools and universities are known for their research; however, their teaching style is not so great. As a result, students that come from a different culture find it hard to follow the teaching style. So, make sure you understand this point ahead of the time.

There is no doubt that choosing a study program involves a series of personal choices like studying in a cosmopolitan city or getting a scholarship, just to name a few. At the end of the day, what matters is that the institute must be a combo of personal and rational elements. However, you should keep in mind that if you choose the right undergraduate degree, it will be the best investment of your life and you will get the highest return on this investment. Therefore, we suggest that you consider the factors given in this article before choosing to study in a certain university.

Have you been looking for a list of bachelors degree programs? If so, we suggest that you check out this educational website.

African Americans Seek Education Through Employers To Help Overcome Financial Difficulties, MassMutual Study Finds

African Americans more likely to be behind in retirement savings, struggle with finances more than other middle-income earners

African Americans, more likely to face greater financial difficulties than other middle-income Americans, including saving for retirement, would welcome more financial education and guidance through their employers, according to a study by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

While 63 percent of middle-income Americans overall say they feel "very" or at least "somewhat" financially secure, only 51 percent of African Americans say the same, according to the MassMutual African American Middle America Finances Study1. The study, which surveyed 492 African Americans with annual household incomes of between $35,000 and $150,000, found that even higher earners expressed financial misgivings: 45 percent of African Americans with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more say they feel less than financially secure compared to just 28 percent of other Americans in the same income category.

"Across the board, African Americans are more likely to say they are unprepared for retirement and feel less financially secure but are more open to education and financial guidance," said Evan Taylor, head of MassMutual's African American Markets. "The findings demonstrate a real need to reach more people, make financial education and guidance more readily available, and focus on financial wellness."

African Americans are more likely to say they are behind in saving for retirement and 41 percent of the survey respondents expressed concerns about making ends meet. Respondents indicated a greater proclivity to making withdrawals or loans from their 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan compared to the general population (24 percent vs. 14 percent, respectively). However, they are also more open to education from their employer about saving for retirement, setting financial priorities and learning about other financial products that can enhance their financial security.

To what extent do you agree with the following statements?





When it comes to retirement, I am behind where I need to be.



I wish my employer offered more resources to help me set financial priorities.



I wish my employer did more to educate me about saving for retirement.



I wish my employer did more to educate me on other financial products and insurance that can help protect me and my family from financial hardship.



I struggle to make ends meet.



Financial Difficulties
Middle-income African Americans are more likely to report difficulty managing their household's monthly finances than others, the study finds. Thirty-six percent of African Americans said they found managing finances "somewhat" or "very difficult" compared to 27 percent of the general population. Nearly half of African Americans with annual household incomes of below $45,000 find it "much more difficult" to manage their finances.

According to the study, the top financial issues facing African Americans were debt (28 percent), lack of income (23 percent) and the cost of living (18 percent), all higher than the general population. Meanwhile, African Americans were nearly half as likely to worry about the cost of health care compared to others, the study finds.

Many middle-income African Americans have low levels of savings, with three in 10 reporting less than $500 in emergency savings compared to two in 10 respondents in the general population.  Most African Americans feel they could manage a sudden expense of $500 but those who could not are more likely to use a payday loan than others, the study finds.  More than half (55 percent) say an unexpected expense of $5,000 would cause significant discomfort or they wouldn't be able to get by.  Forty-five percent of general population respondents say the same.

Middle-income African Americans are more likely to report negative repercussions stemming from financial issues, including their ability to eat healthy (42 percent), pay for a child's education (25 percent) and impact their marriage or romantic relationship (33 percent).

Knowledge vs. Education
While African Americans are less likely to say they lack the knowledge or wherewithal to manage their money, there is a high level of interest in receiving more education and information about financial planning and money management. In addition, African Americans are slightly more likely than others to agree that financial services companies want to help households like theirs. However, significantly fewer work with some type of financial professional compared to those in the general population (29 percent vs. 38 percent, respectively); half (48 percent) say they are unsure where to go for financial advice.

How interested would you be in receiving the following from your employer?





Financial planning services



Social Security counseling



Budget assistance



Tuition Reimbursement



Debt counseling



College loan repayment



"The African American community is very open to education, information and advice about financial matters from their employers, financial services firms and financial professionals," Taylor said. "It's an opportunity for financial services firms, financial advisors and employers to make a difference.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit

Making the Case for More Men of Color in Early Education

By Royston Maxwell Lyttle

Principal Royston Maxwell Lyttle with one of his students. Photo courtesy: Royston Maxwell Lyttle

As educators, we have an obligation to give our students every opportunity to succeed. Parents rely on us to ensure their children are armed with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive once they leave our classrooms.

Over my more than 15 years in education, I have learned that to fulfill this responsibility, schools must give children the opportunity to learn from men of color. The profound impact Black male educators can have on the trajectory of a child's life cannot be overstated. And it's time we acknowledge it.


According to the U.S. Department of Education, less than 2 percent of our nation's teachers are Black males.

At a time when non-White students outnumber White students in U.S. public schools, the need for a diverse teaching force has never been greater. At Eagle Academy Public Charter School, diversity is something we not only celebrate, but aggressively pursue.

We constantly look for ways to expose our students to different experiences, perspectives and methods for coping with challenges. And this starts with diverse educators.

It should come as no surprise that men and women bring different perspectives to the classroom, and the same is true for individuals of varying backgrounds and ethnicities. Especially in early education where children develop the foundation for the rest of their lives, it is crucial that schools cultivate a diverse and stable environment to facilitate this development.

I have seen firsthand that when children learn and grow in a diverse community, they begin to challenge stereotypes that have for far too long prevented children from reaching their full potential.


Today, early childhood education is still widely viewed as a woman's profession.

With men representing only 2.5 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 21.5 percent of elementary and middle school teachers, the chances of having a male educator (let alone a Black male educator) before reaching high school are slim.

Royston Maxwell Lyttle is the principal for grades 1-3 of the Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. He strongly believes that all students should be provided a high-quality education and that all students can reach their full academic potential regardless of their social or economic background.

The environment children are exposed to in their first years of education has a profound impact on how they view the world. Therefore, there should be a sense of urgency among early educators to combat stereotypes.

When children see a diverse teaching staff working together in the same profession, they not only learn the importance of equality, but are also encouraged to ignore gender and racial stereotypes associated with certain careers. As a Black man working in early education, I have seen how these societal constructs negatively affect children and have dedicated my life to breaking them down.


Role models play a critical role in a child's development.

Young boys who come from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have a strong father figure at home, and often come to school hoping to fill that void. As a leader of a 98 percent African-American student body, I feel it is important for students to find someone they can see themselves in, look up to and aspire to be.

Boys who grow up with only female teachers and role models don't have this opportunity. Children tend to mimic influential individuals in their lives. They benefit from strong, Black male teachers who lead by example.

This is something I learned from a student while working in Washington, D.C.

He was a young boy whose behavioral issues were hindering his ability to learn. Without a father figure in his life, his mother was struggling to get through to him. Upon sitting down with the boy in hopes of identifying the root of these problems, I was surprised to find he had just one request: to spend time together.

After our first outing to the movies, his attitude and school work improved dramatically. I didn't have to employ any complicated learning tactic or psychological theory to help this child-I just had to be there and listen. Over the remainder of the year, I watched him grow into a successful and happy student. That experience left me determined to be someone my students can always rely on and look up to in and outside of the classroom.


As we look to the future of early childhood education, I urge parents, teachers, lawmakers and communities to invest in ways to bring diversity to the classroom.

I also challenge my fellow Black men who are passionate about education to buck the norm, ignore the stigma and put the children first.

As a Black male principal, I feel it is my duty to spread this message and be a catalyst for change in order to create a more diversified environment for our children to learn in. I have found there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a student succeed against all odds due to the lessons you have taught them. I encourage more Black men to join me in this journey.

This article originally appeared on

Royston Maxwell Lyttle is the principal for grades 1-3 of the Eagle Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. He strongly believes that all students should be provided a high-quality education and that all students can reach their full academic potential regardless of their social or economic background.

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Q.  My son was sick and I thought it was just a cold however his school called me to pick him up. They asked me to keep him home for a few days since he had a fever but I work and that is a real inconvenience.  Children pass colds back and forth in schools so why send him home?  How can I tell if he has a cold or the flu? When should parents keep children home?

A.  Good question!  Many parents don’t know the difference between a bad cold and the flu. It is also challenging to figure out when a child should stay at home.  Making the right decision isn't as tough as you might think. It basically boils down to one question:  Can your child still participate in school activities? After all, having a sore throat, cough, or mild congestion does not necessarily mean a child can't be active and participate in school activities.  If your son has the sniffles but hasn't slowed down at home, chances are he's well enough for the classroom.  However, if he's been coughing all night and got little sleep, he may need to take it easy at home.  Of course, never send a child to school who has a fever, is nauseated, vomiting, or has diarrhea. Kids who lose their appetite, are clingy or lethargic, complain of pain, or who just don't seem to be acting "themselves" should also take a sick day.  If you decide that your child is well enough to go to school, check first with your child's teacher.  Most daycares, preschools, and grade schools have rules about when to keep kids home. For example, pinkeye or strep throat usually necessitates a day home with appropriate treatment. Most centers won't let kids return to school until after a fever has broken naturally (without fever-reducing medicines) for at least 24 hours.

Colds and Flu

Cold symptoms generally are milder than flu symptoms.  The symptoms of a cold develop slowly and can include:

·  Fever up to 102°F
·  Runny or stuffy nose (often with green- or yellow-colored discharge)
·  Sore throat
·  Cough
·  Sneezing
·  Fatigue
·  Muscle aches
·  Headache
·  Watery eyes

Flu symptoms usually appear suddenly and can include:

·  Fever over 102°F
·  Stuffy nose
·  Nausea
·  Chills and sweats
·  Fatigue
·  Muscle aches, especially in your back, arms and legs
·  Cough
·  Headache
·  Loss of appetite
You should call your pediatrician if the child presents with:

·   High fever (above 103°F), or a fever that lasts for more than 3 days
·  Symptoms that last for more than 10 days
·  Trouble breathing, fast breathing or wheezing
·  Bluish skin color
·  Earache or drainage from the ear
·  Changes in mental state (such as not waking up, irritability or seizures)
·  Flu-like symptoms that improve, but return with a fever and a worse cough
·  Worsening of a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes or heart disease)
·  Vomiting or abdominal pain

It is challenging to have to stay at home with sick children when you have to work.  However, a sick child that continues to go to school will not only pass the illness on to other children but can catch a more serious illness while in a weakened state.  Visit for more information!

Lisa-Anne Ray-Byers is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist who has worked in education for over two decades.  She holds graduate degrees in speech-language pathology and multicultural education.  She also holds certification in educational administration.  She is the author of the books, They Say I Have ADHD, I Say Life Sucks!  Thoughts From Nicholas, They SSSay I’m a StStStutterer, But I SSSay Nothing! Meet Kelly, The Tail of a Black Panther and co-author of the books 365 Ways to Succeed With ADHD and 365+1 Ways to Succeed With ADHD.  She is a member of the National Education Writers Association.  She is currently employed in a local school district.  You may contact her at or by visiting her website at

For Scholarship Information please go to N.E. Informer Scholarship Page


-- The deadline is October 21, 2017 and the award amount is up to $5,000 per student. --

Michael Jackson Scholarship

The Michael Jackson scholarship provides financial assistance to communication arts and social science students attending a United Negro College Fund (UNCF) college/university during the current academic year.

Candidates must have a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. The scholarship will provide an award up to $5,000 depending on the financial need of the student as verified by the attending University or College

In order to have a completed application package, candidates must include:

* Completed Application profile
* Essay (prompt and instructions located within the appropriate section of the application)
* Transcript (unofficial accepted)

All application materials must be submitted by the deadline for full consideration. All previous recipients of this award must apply for reconsideration.

For more details and/or to apply, visit:

To see hundreds of other scholarships, visit:


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