Engaging High School Students

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by jw12, Nov 7, 2015.

  1. jw12

    jw12 Rookie

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    Nov 7, 2015

    I teach science at a large suburban high school, and science is the 2nd largest department in the building. We have a lot of quality educators - many of whom had careers in industry or other areas before coming to teaching. And many of them are frustrated. VERY frustrated.

    Our students are simply not engaged in science. Low-level students don't see the point, college-prep students don't care, and honors-level kids just want an A at any cost. They don't want to do well for the sake of learning. We want to see our kids have an interest in science and be engaged with the content.

    Many of us have tried inquiry-based learning, outdoor labs, etc. to foster the students' interest, but we've had no luck at all. Meetings are becoming bitter discussions of how "our kids don't care about anything, so it doesn't matter what we do!" (yes, more than one colleague has said that)

    Does anyone have any ideas about how we can improve student engagement in science? We're honestly out of ideas!
     
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  3. HSEnglishteach

    HSEnglishteach Rookie

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    Nov 9, 2015

    I really think content and lesson planning are only half of the battle when it comes to engaging students, and maybe even less than that. Are your teachers making connections with kids? Do your teachers CARE about kids? If people are saying things like that at faculty meetings I would be skeptical. Let me rephrase: perhaps your teachers care about kids but are unable to show it. Student attitudes are born of teacher attitudes. That sounds simplistic, but it's true.

    I don't mean to sound harsh here, but if your science teachers became science teachers because they're passionate about science but not kids, they should leave and work in that profession. Even at the high school level, teaching is first about kids, second about kids, and third about kids, with content a distant fourth.

    Sorry to say it, but it ain't the arrow; it's the Indian.

     
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  4. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    Nov 10, 2015


    although responses like yours are fairly common here, I tend to give other posters the benefit of the doubt. Are there teachers who don't care for about children? Of course there are... but those types ARE NOT (imo) the ones who are utilizing additional resources such as this forum to solicit advice from their peers. I strongly doubt you would rebuke a student who came seeking advice by telling them that he/she wasn't trying hard enough or didn't care about the material enough.

    I have read the OP and have not responded because I have no experience in teaching science.
     
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  5. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    Nov 10, 2015

    Have you thought about school-wide initiatives or clubs? What about bringing in speakers?
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Nov 10, 2015

    I teach science because I love science. Not because I love kids. Honestly, I don't really like kids. Well, I like my kids. But only after I get to know them. But I didn't get into this profession because I "looooove childreeeen" (which is what EVERY person said in the interview I went to for my teaching credential--all of them dropped out, I stayed in--obviously a love of children wasn't enough to keep them in the profession).

    Anyway, I hear you. I teach science at the MS level. We have a lot more fun and kids are a lot more engaged, but they're also younger and MS science is more about playing around and experimenting than producing exact and accurate results as it is in HS. I have a lot of students who are still disengaged.

    And so what? Not everyone is going to be a scientist. Just like not everyone is going to be a writer, or a mathematician, or an engineer. But there are some kids that are reached by inquiry science. Kids who try it out and think: "This is really cool! This might be a cool career!"

    I plan my lessons the way I do because of those kids. I want them to have the best foundation possible to get into a career in science if that's what they choose. If they don't choose that, well that's okay too, they've at least been educated somewhat in science and won't go out into the world completely scientifically illiterate.

    You will have all kinds of students in your class who will engage science content at different levels. The bare minimum should be that a student walks out of a science class able to evaluate evidence about scientific issues like climate change, evolution, or vaccinations without falling into the trap of hype.

    The limit is the sky for those who are truly interested in science and want to take it up as a career. You can provide for those by giving them links to competitions, internships with laboratories or universities, or summer science programs.

    Many kids will go through HS hating science and wanting nothing to do with it, but will like it later in life (like myself--I hated it as a HS student but loved it in college).

    We're not motivation factories who can churn out 100% of students that are completely enthused by our subject. Our job is to educate them to the point of scientific literacy and guide those interested in our subject to success if they show that interest. I say, it sounds like you're doing good work already. Be happy with it, and tell the teachers complaining about students not being motivated to stop whining. Enjoy teaching and doing what you do, and enthusiasm from students might follow, or it might not. But still enjoy what you do, and you won't have as much bitterness.
     
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  7. jw12

    jw12 Rookie

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    Nov 10, 2015

    Yes, but unfortunately, the staff morale is pretty low, so there's not much buy-in from other staff members on such ideas (trust me, I've tried!!). AND the admin doesn't see any problems at all! So any time someone (namely, ME) suggests something, I get the "We don't see any issues here. What in the world are you talking about?" response!
     
  8. HSEnglishteach

    HSEnglishteach Rookie

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    Nov 11, 2015

    I respect your opinion, but I don't think you fully understand my position. I'm not saying the teachers at this school all don't care about or like children. What I'm saying is that they may have forgotten what the profession is all about. High school children, with some rare exceptions, DO NOT walk through the door caring about your content. It's just not reality, and if you think it is you're setting yourself up for severe disappointment. I actually think this is one of the lovely challenges of teaching. Your kids' default state is apathy. Your job is to make them care. It's an incredible challenge, and it makes the work worth it.

    In my opinion, "making them care" is all about you caring yourself: about the content, sure. That's key! But you must also care about them and make them the focus of your efforts. Students know when teachers are frustrated or disengaged; teachers often don't recognize the effect they have on their classes. They say things like, "These kids don't care." But if they would videotape themselves they would see that it is the teachers who are not showing care. The students are merely reacting.

     
  9. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Nov 11, 2015

    Don't worry about what happens outside of your room. It sounds like you have the drive to engage the students you have during the time you have them. Talk with them and find out who they are as individuals. Forge relationships with them. Care about them, and they will care about you. Chances are, they will say, "I don't want to do this work, but for THIS teacher, I'll make the effort." Believe it or not, that can happen.
     
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