How Can I Reach THem?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by roxstar, May 27, 2012.

  1. roxstar

    roxstar Companion

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    May 27, 2012

    I will preface my question with a bit of background. I currently teach math in a school where the student make-up is about 95% Hispanic and most students are living in pretty extreme poverty. They are faced with all of the horrible things we have been taught about, drugs, gangs, hunger...at an assembly for 6th and 7th graders, the speaker asked how many people knew someone who had been killed in a drive by shooting and half of the audience raised their hands. It was a real eye opener into the fact that I truly have no idea what it is like to be them and I was so saddened. :eek: Anyway, no surprise, my kids are completely unmotivated and I just don't know how to reach them.

    There are certain class periods where i will get 2 homework assignments. They don't do their classwork. They don't try on tests. It is pretty extreme and frustrating. I thought I was going to come into this school and really make it happen and I feel like I am failing. Telling them they are going to fail is pointless because I think that they have already decided this beforehand. They think they are failures already or they have had F's for so long that they are meaningless.

    The staff talks a lot about how they come to us so low academically. Most of my 6th graders can't multiply, and even after working on it all year, it pretty much hasn't changed. Their test scores are low. Most of the time, less than half our classes pass any exam we give them, so yes, they are lacking in skills, but no one seems to want to address the issue of motivation. They have to be motivated to try, study, do the work etc and my head is spinning trying to figure out what to do! :dizzy: I get so frustrated when I see that they won't even try. Many times, they will write down my warm-up questions and then proceed to sit and wait for me to go over them. Not even an attempt. I know that some of this is a management issue and I have many ideas on how to work that out but....seriously. With most things, they are like fish swimming at the top of a fish bowl with their mouths open waiting for the food to drop down directly into their mouths. Talk about learned helplessness.

    I refuse to resign myself to the fact that they are going to be low achievers, which many of the teachers have. I have read every book imaginable.......

    .....So here is my question after this long, drawn out diatribe....what do YOU do? How do you motivate your kids who lack the skills, role models, stability, self esteem and pretty much EVERYTHING many other students have? I am trying to set up a plan of action for next year and I am hoping some of you are in a similar situation and have some ideas on how to reach these kids.

    Thanks everyone!!!:thumb:
     
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  3. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    May 27, 2012

    Good luck. I don't have any answers. When my students come into the class determined to fail I have very little success convincing them otherwise.

    I've tried motivational lectures. I've tried dumbing down the curriculum. I've tried building relationships. As far as I can tell, none of it has worked to the point that they are willing to take responsibility for their own learning.
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    May 27, 2012

    Makes me think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs...:(
     
  5. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    May 27, 2012

    Just a thought, but how do they work together? Can you do hands on activities to teach the concepts instead of lecturing? Maybe in groups of 2 or 3?

    I come from an elementary background but I'm thinking that some of the strategies that we use with younger children might help.

    ...And :thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb: to YOU for doing what you are doing for children that others have apparently decided don't matter.
     
  6. roxstar

    roxstar Companion

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    May 27, 2012

    Definitely!

    Agreed. I think I need to do quite a bit of classroom team building. They definitely are not getting their basic needs met at home. Some of them don't even get food or sleep
     
  7. roxstar

    roxstar Companion

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    May 27, 2012

    Good idea

    I am hoping that some more cooperative learning will help. They definitely have low tolerance for lecturing. Thanks!
     
  8. physteach

    physteach Companion

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    May 27, 2012

    I taught in a very similar (even grade and subject the same!) situation. What it came down to for me was acknowledging that the kids were probably too far behind to get the right test scores or learn x, y, z concepts. They either would or they wouldn't. My job was to make them happy to come to school and to make them feel safe. I made sure that I spent one-on-one time with each kid and I tried to intersperse actual learning with fun math games. I always kept granola bars or goldfish in my backpack and some mornings, we did no work - just had a snack and talked. I was in a city and had kids taking an hour long journey to get to school each day, so I tried to rarely assign homework or would give them class time to work on it. Many of my students couldn't get help on their work while they were at home, so it was a wash and a waste of everyone's time.

    A bit part of my approach was to tell the kids that I didn't care how many new things they learned, but I wanted them to be able to do basic math without even having to think. I had one kid who ended sixth grade not knowing anything about fractions or decimals, but he could add, subtract, multiply and (usually) divide, which he hadn't been able to do. I also had one girl who learned to work with fractions and ended up teaching a lesson about how fractions are necessary for interior decorating, which is what she wanted to do when she grew up. Know your students and know how far to push them.

    Other than that, just love them. I loved all of my kids and they knew it. Often, on Fridays I would tell them that I was sad to see them go and I was already waiting for Monday. I asked them about their lives and always went to bat for them when they got in trouble. This was also very school dependent, but I tended to end our weeks or even just difficult days by giving my kids a hug or a pat on the back to physically show that I cared.
     
  9. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    May 27, 2012

    You and I teach in the same district. I know exactly how things are.

    I don't have many answers, although I wish I did. I've tried so many things in my classroom and I get met with resistance at every turn. Kids fight me when I ask them to read, to write, to think, to be kind to each other, and to accept responsibility for their actions. Everything is a struggle.

    For me what works most of the time is developing a rapport with my students. It's not always possible, because some students fight even that. But most students seem open, and most students seem to enjoy it when you ask them about themselves, their lives, their feelings, and their experiences. Many students secretly long for their teachers to express an interest in them, I think. When kids tell you that they are into dancing and that their dance group is performing on Tuesday night at the arts center, what they are really saying is that they want you to be there. The same goes for their sporting events, their piano recitals, their plays. Go to those things, and make sure that those kids see you. If they don't see you, be sure to congratulate them on their stellar performance whenever you see them next. It matters to them, even if they never show it.

    A couple of days ago I chaperoned a large group of seniors at Disneyland Grad Nite. There were 40 or so students on my bus, along with two other buses for a total of about 125 students on the trip. I didn't get paid to go on the trip, it wasn't part of my contractual obligations as a teacher, but I did it anyway. While we were there, so many students stopped me and asked to take pictures with me. It really reinforced to me that I am a part of their high school experience, part of their memories. If they can learn something in my class, even if they don't really "learn" it or figure it out until later, I'm going to consider that a success. I can't fix all their problems, and I can't teach them everything they don't know already. But I can do my best. I can teach them a little something about my content and a little something about being good global citizens. Hopefully some of them will get the message.

    I think my point is that sometimes "reaching them" might not happen while they're sitting in your classroom. It might be something that needs to sink in over a period of time. For that reason, you just have to keep at it. Keep pushing the life lessons and the content lessons. Keep your expectations high but attainable. Some of your students will get there. Focus on those.
     
  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    May 28, 2012

    I'm in elementary, so I know it's totally different, but our school population last year was very similar to yours. I know a lot of this isn't in your control, but a big help for us was how focused the school was on character education. Every class begins the day with 30 minute lessons focused on teambuilding/character building alone. We're a k-8 and they do this in middle school too even with changing classes- they just go to this 30 minute class before their "regular" classes start. We also make a huge effort to get students to track their own data- focusing on improvement, not meeting grade level. Every little improvement is celebrated. Maybe it's just a regional thing- I find my hispanic students to be far more motivated than my privileged white students. Since they don't have much outside of school, they really value the relationships they have with teachers at school and work hard to impress their teachers. They love coming to school because it's better than being at home- the only time we really have a ton of behavior problems is right before longer breaks when they're anxious about being at home for so long.
     
  11. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    May 28, 2012

    My situation is similar only in that I worked with at risk kids. Supporting them, making them feel welcome and trusting them was a big thing.

    One thing that really helped them was to have food around. I remember taking on a student who was living in the woods. We served lunch, and I can still see her face as she entered the dining room. She never missed a day of school.
     
  12. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    May 28, 2012

    My situation is much like Blue's. I'm just going to echo what so many others have said... you have to build relationships with them before you can really do anything else. And Cza is right, it's all about the heirarchy of needs.

    They have to know they are safe, respected and even loved when they walk in your room. Sometimes you have to skip a much needed academic lesson to deal with some other issue (addressing a base need on Maslow's chart) even when you know that they DESPERATELY need the lesson. This is what people who have never taught in a high poverty/high at risk environment sometimes don't understand. It's not that our expectations aren't high enough;it's that they can only do so much and we can only fix so much... Sometimes my children (and I use that term loosely because most of my students are between 17-20) have problems so far beyond the scope of what our district can do for them that there's nothing we can do but hope they survive the night. :(

    Cooking for them works wonders, if you're allowed to do so. They love it when I make them cookies or brownies. I try not to purchase anything prepacked. They really love it when they know I heated up the oven and did it myself for them. They know I'm a single mom with a second job, and it speaks to them that I'm willing to take the time and effort to bake for them.
     
  13. Curiouscat

    Curiouscat Comrade

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    May 28, 2012

    Here's an idea for homework....I stole this idea from someone...sorry I don't remember who!
    If students have their homework they get to wad it up in a ball and try to make a basket. If you make a basket then you get a reward. The reward is up to you but I caution you to keep it simple. Rewards I use include using pen for the day, being classroom manager( basically my helper), a piece of gum, a homework pass, etc. I have a basket of books I earned for free from Scholastic and sometimes I let them chose from that basket. It only takes one excited student before that basket of books becomes a hot ticket. Sometimes I give tickets for an end of the week drawing. Usually the prize is a candy bar.
    Bribery? Yes, but it does the trick. My homework completion rate tripled within a month. Why? Because getting a chance to make a basket is fun!
     

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