How to engage this student?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Bored of Ed, Dec 1, 2016.

  1. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Dec 1, 2016

    Hey! I haven't been here in a really long time but I checked in a couple of times just to see what's going on...

    This is a bit of an embarrassing confession but I really need help so I'm going to humble myself.
    I'm working 1:1 in a tutoring kind of setup with a very disinterested middle school/junior high student. I have to confess that while she is known to be a difficult student, I consider the problem here to be my fault. I didn't come in with a solid plan and never gained momentum since. I came in thinking that she needed support with her school curriculum but she turned out to be doing OK in her classes so I was left sort of fishing for ideas of what to work on. She picked up on my lack of direction and we've been stuck in this rut ever since. She has a different tutor whom she likes better who works with her on class assignments, so if I ever bring up schoolwork she legitimately says that's already covered. Plus, she is not motivated to work with me on curricular materials because she knows she's doing ok (her teachers and I all think she can and should be doing even better, but that's not enough to motivate this type of kid.)

    I need help both figuring out how to set up concrete goals and how to make our sessions more engaging. We're in such a bad rut it's pulling me down all over. Our focus is supposed to be mostly on math - she has a different tutor for literacy - but any type of thinking, learning, or information processing skill would be relevant as well. She seems to be holding her own in math class so she doesn't need help with those topics, but I don't want to mix in other topics because that would confuse her. To make things worse, her teacher is either using some kind of weird curriculum or going very quickly because they change topics what seems like every day but is probably more like every week. By the time I find out what the class is up to and prepare something about that, they've already moved on.

    I am getting so frustrated and it's really depressing to have such a miserable, disengaged student. She doesn't seem interested in anything fun, either. At least not anything fun that I can bring into sessions - she enjoys her social life (but not talking or writing about it), she loves dancing (but not reading, talking, or writing about it), enjoys watching TV and movies (many of which should probably not be mentioned in school). Other kids I've developed a rapport by involving crafts, games, or referencing their interests. She is stubbornly disinterested in any type of craft or game. She refuses to engage in any of the fun activities that I found successful in the past (I've done things like "Plan a trip" - both fantasy and realistic... other kids have had fun with it, this one just didn't respond.)

    There are many reasons why I don't want to quit this case but it is really getting me down. I'm going through a hard time personally so I haven't been able to devote as much energy and focus to this as I really should.

    How can I bring some momentum into this relationship? All ideas welcome! I have had a lot of tough students before but none quite like this one. Different flavor of tough. So cold. Really cute and sweet with her friends, but stone cold with me.

    I'm on the verge of a professional meltdown over this. Last session was like a silent treatment.
     
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  3. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Dec 1, 2016

    I often find that students, who seem to be able to do better if they'd only put in more effort, are actually struggling against an invisible brick wall. The key is to find that brick wall and assist them in climbing over it, or in some cases transforming this road block into a new kind of passageway for learning. I'm also of the opinion that we cannot motivate students, we can prime the pump, but the real motivation must come from themselves. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe it's Renetta Caine who recommends using the actual subject matter, in this case math, to motivate, rather than external motivation from games, crafts, etc., (although I would agree, too, with keeping math concrete--sometimes math skills are best taught by using them to create a craft or function in a game). Something I've been toying with lately is how I can integrate the number 17 into various math objectives--some scientists have spent a lifetime exploring the interesting patterns of this prime number. I picture students enthusiastically engaged self-discovering various patterns. Then again, this is a middle school student--their bodies and brains are experiencing early adolescent flip-flops inside and that could be a major factor in this student's apparent indifference.
     
  4. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Dec 1, 2016

    When I have difficult students like that in tutorials, I make every review a game. I play along and make my turns more difficult to score (example: in a dice game, I have to roll an even number to score). I wouldn't mention goals or anything boring. I would practice grade level skills and not ask for her input. I had one student (he was younger, though, so we didn't have the teenage kind of disdain going on) with whom I played on different game boards with questions on cards. When it was my turn, he had to answer for me, or help me, or something. If you would like some suggestions for games or activities for particular topics, just ask.
     
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