Unmotivated Student

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by BumbleB, Nov 2, 2011.

  1. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

    May 10, 2011
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    Nov 2, 2011

    I teach 8th grade language arts, and I have one student that is chronically lazy and does nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean literally nothing. Not even a word written on an assignment. And you're probably thinking, "Oh, find out what motivates him and make it a reward for doing his work!" the problem is, he's lazy in life as well. Nothing excites him, nothing motivates him. He just goes through life...existing.

    Today was especially bad, I decided to sit with him and walk him through the work question by question. Sometimes I am able to do this, other times, I really don't have the time or patience. It doesn't help much anyways, he just sits there and says "why do I have to do this?" "this is pointless". And when I try to pull the answers out of him (asking questions like, "so what do you think the setting is?") he'll just say "stuff" or shrug his shoulders. I tried to talk to him after class, and all he told me was that his life is screwed up. I tried to discuss that further but he just walked away and ignored me.

    I called mom and she is no help. She doesn't seem concerned at all, no shame for his behavior...no apologies. She didn't even sound worried. I'm meeting with the school counselor tomorrow, and my mentor teacher was his teacher last year, so I'm talking to her tomorrow as well. My mentor teacher said she tried many interventions and strategies with him last year and nothing helped.

    Sorry this is so long, but I'm really at a loss. What do I do with this kid for the rest of the year? Push him or just let him make his decision not to participate?
  3. brians1024

    brians1024 Rookie

    Aug 10, 2011
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    Nov 3, 2011

    If he was the same way the previous year, was he held back in the grade or passed on?

    Sounds like you're taking the right approach by speaking with the counselor.

    Too bad about the mom not wanting to get involved.
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

    Jan 12, 2011
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    Nov 3, 2011

    Definitely a tough situation, and definitely something that sounds like more of a mental health issue than a classroom/instructional problem. Whatever the issue may be - from depression to just low energy level or personality style - it's probably going to be tough from within the four walls of a classroom to do a tremendous amount, especially related to any mental health concerns.

    I think the best thing you can probably do, beyond making the mental health referral and working together with those folks to deliver any help, is not push the academics too much now (which would probably create friction anyway) and focus on building a closer bond with the student. Set the academic expectations, and leave them. Let him fail, but don't add the social/adult pressure of nagging him, reminding him, asking him why he didn't do anything, warn him of bad grades, etc. - just pretend that doesn't exist, and leave the academic feedback to progress reports, grades at the top of tests, etc. Focus all of your interaction with him on things that aren't aversive - find the tiniest sliver of interest he may show in something, and talk about that. If he doesn't, find something that YOU really like (that you think he may potentially be interested in) and start having a one-way conversation with him (you talking, him not responding). The key is showing that interacting with you will be a positive, non-aversive, and potentially interesting thing. That may create a safe-space of interaction where he might slowly start to feel more interested, if for no other reason than you are interested.

    Of course, there are some kids that just have a more flat personality style, aren't really dynamic, and don't have a wide range of interests. Those kids may not really be that fun to teach, but they do exist, and simply having such a personality style doesn't automatically indicate a "problem" per se. Still, usually if it's just a personality style, you wouldn't see a complete refusal to do work or engage in the process - just an incredibly emotionally flat interaction.

    Also, keep in mind that it may be something you have to work at over the course of months, not days or weeks, and your success might even be just a seed planted that doesn't even begin to grow for years. He may be one of those kids that comes and visits you in 15 years, saying what a difference you made, which totally blows you away because you had no idea he was even "in there."

    Hang in there - those kids are tough to work with because there isn't a lot short-term reward for you either - but hopefully you might be able to help out.

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