Refusing to work

Discussion in 'General Education' started by QE1, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. QE1

    QE1 Rookie

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    What do you do when a student refuses to work? I have who students who when given an assignment just sit there. I've tried talking with them, talking to their parents, showing them their grades, bribing them, etc. We've gone over how much money you make with a high school diploma vs a GED vs a skilled laborer vs a college degree. I've talked to other teachers and they are having similar problems with the students. Our school is an alternative recovery school, so I realize that a lot of our students have been given up before. The work is not above their level of understanding either, they and I know that they have the ability to succeed in the work.

    I just don't know what else to do to motivate them. I'm at my wits end on how to get them to do something rather than just sitting there like a lump on a log.
     
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  3. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Some may not agree with me, but if a student really doesn't want to do work, and any efforts toward persuading the student fail, then that student has chosen the consequences for the lack of working which is an F. I am not going to stand there and harangue a student who just refuses to work period.

    I will kindly invite him to work whenever we start a new activity, but if he just decides to sit there and be a lump of existence that is his choice. I've wasted too much time and effort on students who just refuse to work, and that time and effort can better be used by helping the students who actually decide to work.

    As long as that student is not being disruptive, or a behavior problem how much work he does is up to him.
     
  4. applecore

    applecore Devotee

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    I agree. The age old "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" comes to mind. We can only do so much. That being said, if all efforts have been exhausted in the classroom as normal (with your normal set of rules, learning disabilities ruled out, etc.), the principal should be involved and take over from there. That's what we do...but others may not.
     
  5. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    The age of the student matters here. Middle and high school students are old enough to make a choice and accept the consequences.

    Now, with younger students, the big question is the degree to which a student has mastered the skills of their particular grade level.
     
  6. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    I've had entire classes like that.

    I just write the assignment for that class on the board and tell them, "Do it, don't do it, that's up to you. If you have any questions, ask me."

    Then I catch up on marking papers or any other work I have.


    :dunno:
     
  7. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Age makes a huge difference.

    I often say to my grade 1s: "You can do it now or at recess, your choice."
     
  8. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    That's what I always say too. Like other said this can be modified for older students by telling them that they can do it or get a 0, their choice.
     
  9. QE1

    QE1 Rookie

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    I work with high school students, ages 16-22 all in the same room.



    Thank you all for the advice. I've been beating myself up over it for awhile now and this week was just horrible.
     
  10. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Could the student be anxious about the work? Is it possible they'd rather fail than try? Often it can be a defense mechanism.
     
  11. QE1

    QE1 Rookie

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    Dec 2, 2012

    I've thought about this and it could have something to do with it. However, even when I talk with him outside of class or sit down with them and break it down for him; he still doesn't do the work.
     
  12. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Dec 2, 2012

    Some people say, middle schoolers / high schoolers are old enough to know they should do the work, so after a certain amount of motivation, let's just let them be.
    But the other side says we, teachers are supposed to make sure all students are working and learning.

    I think I tend to side with the second option, although I see the point of the first one. One of my issues is that even if I think I can;t make the student do anything he doesn't want to, I don't want him poisoning other students with his negative attitude.
    I know if my P walked in, she would point out the student who isn't working. I know teaching isn't about what my boss wants, but it is a good reminder of what I should do. At least that's how I look at it.

    So normally I do it like this. If the student is not working and is absolutely quiet the entire time, I might tolerate that for 1 period. But that means he can't put his head down, he can't draw, or do anything else, other than sitting there. That means he will be bored out of his mind. Technically I could write him up for refusing to follow teacher's directions, but I can let it go once. The minute he does something else, he is now disruptive or at least off task, and refuses to follow directions. 2-3 things to go on the write up.
    At the lock up it's simple, it's enough for him to get in trouble, probably this is why I never have this problem.

    I know that always making students do things and being a control freak is not the answer, but I think, as a teacher I can require him to do the work, and if not, suffer a consequence.
    Just my 2 cents.
     
  13. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Dec 2, 2012

    I've been there. Here are some things that I have done that have helped when a child doesn't do work when I taught 3rd & 4th grade. For some reason, this hasn't happened yet while teaching 5th grade.

    1. If the child flat out refuses to work, then I calmly say that since they don't want to do the assignment, then I get to do the assignment and they get to watch me. (Of course you want to wait until the rest of the class is really engaged in work.) I then do the assignment, and I'm a bit dramatic on showing how much fun it is to do the assignment. The student just sits and watches me have fun. After 5 minutes, he is usually bored just sitting there and watching me have fun. Then I tell him that I really had fun doing the assignment, but I need to go and help the other students. I ask if he wants to spend the next 10 minutes watching the class do the work or if he'd like to do the assignment himself. I have never had one choose to watch, but if he did, I'd have him watch for the 10 minutes in a chair in the front of the room facing the students. I am really nice this whole time in how I talk to him. I allow him to see that work is more fun than just sitting there. This actually has worked very well.

    2. I do make it clear that all work in school must be done. If they don't get it done in school, it must be done at home or sometimes after school. (I only keep a child after school if I call the parents and explain that he/she really didn't try to get much work done that day.) It is pretty rare. Most parents cooperate.

    3. I start the assignment with the child. I find that once a child starts an assignment they are usually fine. It is starting the assignment that can seem scary to them.

    4. I sit one on one and ask them why they aren't doing their assignment. Sometimes they tell me, sometimes they don't.

    Hope that one or more of these might help. :)
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Dec 2, 2012

    I have the same issues with some students. Most of the time it is absolute laziness that causes it. Students will even admit to such. If I can't find a motivator I will sometimes send the student out of the room. Sometimes, rarely, I will write him up.

    One thing that I did last month that worked, was not allow the students to move forward until they had given me evidence that they did the first assignment. In that case students couldn't get the study guide for the test until they completed their vocabularly. This only worked for the students that cared about their test scores of course.
     
  15. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    If you have tried absolutely everything (including making sure that there isn't some underlying issue, at home or in school, that is preventing them from being motivated to complete work)...have them write "refused to do" at the top of the assignment and sign their name. Then, file the worksheet away in a safe place where you can retrieve it if there are any questions about this student's grade at the end of the quarter.
     
  16. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Dec 2, 2012

    I am trying to decide what to do with this myself. I have one student with severe OT issues who doesn't like to write anything because it is so difficult. We have provided him a text device on which he could type, but he doesn't want to do that either. Nor does he want a scribe. Nor does he participate orally. What kills me the most is that he is one of the brightest students in my class and has so much to offer.

    In reality, I don't spend my time sitting there and begging him to do stuff. He has good days and bad....and can always make the work up later...but in that moment I have students who DO want to try. So he sits. :dunno:
     
  17. round stanley

    round stanley Companion

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    Dec 2, 2012

    What about bringing in a local employer to talk about job site responsibilities or just what is needed to get a job? Might not help this particular student, but it couldn't hurt the kids who might be looking for legitimate work in the near future.
     
  18. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    What do you do if you KNOW there are underlying issues at home and the student is already going to counseling and has all the resources available to him but still will not do work? This is one of the issues I am facing with a student right now.

    @Linguist: I think what you're doing sounds like a great idea! I am going to have to look more into how to handle these types of students in the long term.
     
  19. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    You continue to try different things. If there is something they are motivated by, try to work that into a reward system at school. For example, I have a very difficult student with the ABC's of disabilities (ADD, OD, ED, etc). However, he loves to help. Move books to the supply room? He's there. Stack the chairs up? Does it everyday without asking. However, he doesn't have the same motivation about schoolwork. So he's currently on a behavior plan where, if he does his schoolwork, he gets to go down to our integrated preschool program during lunch and read them stories. He loves it, and tells me that it's the only reason he comes to school.

    Get the guidance counselor, parents, administration, exemplary teachers involved with this situation. Keep searching for new ideas to use. You can still have him sign off on work he refuses to do (good idea to keep those just to document how pervasive his issues are), but keep trying.

    I had a student like that last year and, despite everything I tried, he still did no work. He came back to visit me on the first day of school this year to confide in me about how scary high school is. The workload, the expectations...he was terrified and knew that he would need to step up his work habits in order to graduate. So although I didn't see success when I taught him, I did see him have an "aha" moment when it really counted.
     
  20. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    This student used to help with classroom duties, but eventually he decided he doesn't want to help anymore.

    Parents are completely hands-off and possibly using.

    He's already on a behavior plan, and we've been told not to use his lunchtime for consequences or his ability to play sports because that's really the only thing he comes to school for. I think I've tried pretty much everything as has the administration and the district and I have too many other problems in the classroom to deal with. I don't like giving up on a student, and I will continue to invite him but if he doesn't meet me half-way ever, there is nothing I can do.
     
  21. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Have you expressed your feelings to administration? Is the guidance counselor involved?
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Yes to both. The entire school has come together to try to come to a solution for this student and no one has made any progress.
     
  23. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    With this particular student in the OP, I don't think we have enough info to say "everything has been tried" or not, so I think any advice to say 100% keep going or 100% don't is probably premature. As Peregrin pointed out, there are a number of different strategies that can be tried, but at some point any additional intervention may prove to be beyond feasibility.

    As someone else pointed out, I too also believe that you are never out of options, and you always have the opportunity to reassess and try new things. However, at a certain point, the resources may be too intensive for feasible implementation. However, that would generally be at a point when several rounds of assessment and intervention have been tried, mental health/guidance staff is on board, etc.

    The next step to the OP would be to conduct a more thorough assessment of the behavior of "refusal to do work." Variables we don't know yet on this thread include:

    1) Level of work presented
    2) Academic/cognitive levels of students
    3) Type of work presented and refused
    4) Rate/frequency of refusal (all the time, some, etc.)
    5) Other behaviors that occur with refusal (is refusal passive, aggressive, avoidant, etc.)
    6) Other academic, social, emotional, and behavioral issues that may be related.
    7) Etc.

    So, yes - there is hypothetical point at which "everything" (reasonably) has been tried, and you may have nothing left to feasibly do, but I haven't seen that that point has arrived. It may have, but we just haven't seen enough yet...
     
  24. Ranchwife

    Ranchwife Companion

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    Dec 2, 2012

    In our county, we have a SARB board (Student Attendance Review Board). The board is comprised of the two county judges, probation, sherrif, and city police. If a kid has extensive absences, or is failing more classes than can be made up, the kid and their parents are sent before the SARB board. Basically, they lay the law down - you either change your ways or this is what is going to happen. They have to give up all electronic devices, stake boards, basketballs (if that is one of the vices for the kids), and so on. The sheriff and the city police go to their house and confiscate all items. The board them meets once a month to review progress. If there is growth and progress, they get some things back.

    This has A LOT of teeth with our kids and parents. Maybe check with your principal and see if there is any type of review board and go from there. The courts can make the kids work or their lives and the lives of their parents become dictated. If nothing else, it seems like it is time to call a student study team meeting and start reviewing problems with the kids, parents, and other teachers and start the ball rolling as far a documentation, review boards, etc. go. Good luck. Some kids simply refuse to work and that is their choice.
     
  25. QE1

    QE1 Rookie

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    Thank you EdEd. I'm sure there are more things I can do. I just don't know of any yet. I really do want to help him and the other students we have that are similar. As for your list I put my answers in blue.

    1) Level of work presented - Most of the work is at a ninth /tenth grade level.
    2) Academic/cognitive levels of studentsThey are a ll over the board. I have some that read a 2nd or 3rd grade level and some that are at college level. I do a ton of differentiation; everything from fewer/reworded questions to simpler assignments and tests.
    3) Type of work presented and refusedEverythting. Simple vocabulary bell work, crosswords, worksheets on the story we just read, movie worksheets, oral participation, projects, homework, reading, etc.
    4) Rate/frequency of refusal (all the time, some, etc.)On a daily basis, he doodles on his papers, just writes his name on it and then leaves it there at the end of the class. He will turn in the paper with just his name on it sometimes.
    5) Other behaviors that occur with refusal (is refusal passive, aggressive, avoidant, etc.)His refusal is passive as long as I don't say anything to him. If I ask him to work or if he has questions he will ignore me the first time with an eye roll, if I come back and remind him he then gets confrontational
    6) Other academic, social, emotional, and behavioral issues that may be related.He doesn't have any problems with friends or other social issues. He appears to be a fairly well adjusted kid, has nice clean clothes and is well groomed. The only real other behavior issue other than refusal and confrontation some of the time is that he likes to say he has to go to restroom and level for 20 or 30 minutes. I've talked with other teachers and he did the same thing in their class last block.
    7) Etc.His home life seems okay, but I can't fully tell. However, I have called his mother and she said she would talk with him and his dad. When I talked to the student he said that he didn't live with his mother and said he was not going to be going to the school much longer and would be going to one of the local community colleges. I asked him how he was going to do that and he said he was going to be getting a GED and then was going to be a professional boxer.
     
  26. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Dec 3, 2012

    Hey QE1 - so, one of the first things that's important to do is to decide if there is an issue with the class as a whole, or whether you have a bunch of separate individual issues all happening at the same time. As an (extreme) example, if you decided to give nuclear physics work to these students and they all refused, you'd like conclude that the reason they were refusing to do work has to do with a common cause, and you'd like address the issue as a group. On the other hand, let's say that you have one child that is extremely noncompliant and refuses to do everything - work as well as simple behavioral tasks. Another child really tried hard for a while but ended up giving up because of difficulty, so "shut down." Still another child was refusing to do work because it made him look powerful in front of peer. In that case, you likely wouldn't implement one intervention for all kids because there are different causes.

    Especially since it's an alternative school, my guess it that most of the kids have at least somewhat significant individual behavioral issues that led them to placement in your school in the first place. So, it probably makes sense to take each child individually. If you can identify a common cause that might be contributing to all or some of the kids' behavior, let us know. Otherwise, I think it makes sense to process them individually. Here's my suggestion on how to do that - let's pick one child for this particular thread to keep things neat and ordered, and you could then chose to either just focus on that one child at first, or start a new thread for a second child (and third thread for another, etc.) - depending on what you need and want to work on.

    So, it seems that with some of the questions above, you answered with one particular child, and with some of the others you answered for the whole group. Assuming you want to work on one child, would you mind re-answering the questions all for the same child?

    Hopefully we can start brainstorming some ideas to help...
     

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