What to do when students don't care?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by peachacid, May 21, 2012.

  1. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    May 21, 2012

    I usually don't have a problem with this because I work with students in small groups -- five or six students. However, I have one group of fifth graders who consistently does not pay attention. Today we were reading from the book Love that Dog by Sharon Creech. The word anonymous is in the book, and I asked the kids to try to figure out what it meant (context clues were EVERYWHERE). Two kids figured it out, but the other three kids weren't paying attention at all. They stare off, or look at each other and laugh... I called them out on it, saying that the only way to do well in school was to pay attention, and the one girl was like, "I never pay attention." This made the other two kids laugh. Cause it's soooo cool to never know what's going on.

    They are like this regardless of the subject we're reading about. I asked them for interests when I first started working with them and they had nothing to say. I want to shake them!

    On a side note, one of these kids has the worst attitude I've ever seen in someone so "young" (he's 12 in fifth grade. He makes little mistakes in reading all the time (come for came, for example). Whenever he's corrected, either by me or by the other students, he says, "I said that," as in, "I did not make a mistake." The way I "correct" students is to say, "Read that again...what is that first (or second, whatever) word again?" Most students recognize their mistake. This kid looks at me like, "What the f is your problem? I said it right the first time!" I understand he has probably been constantly corrected in his reading and is defensive, but his attitude sucks. ARGH.
     
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  3. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    May 21, 2012

    If you're teaching in Philadelphia or a district that closely borders it, I'm afraid you've come across the norm. There's not a whole heck of a lot you can do regarding a personality trait that's ingrained.

    I know you can't do what I've done in similar circumstance because you're working with fifth graders and being a reading teacher, you're probably working with small groups. At the high school level, with entire classloads of students like that, I frequently reached the point after trying everything where I would write the assignment on the board and told them at the beginning of the period, "Here's the assignment. Do it. Don't do it. It's up to you. I'm here if you have any questions."

    Again, I know YOU can't do that, but I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone!


    :cool:
     
  4. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    May 21, 2012

    I don't know if you'll be working with these students again next year, but it sounds like they need a lot of positive boosting. They have probably had years of not being able to understand and struggling that this is their way of "showing" everyone that they don't struggle.
     
  5. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 21, 2012

  6. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    May 21, 2012

    I am no longer in Philadelphia -- I am in Central PA now, at an urban school with a high population of hispanic kids. My kids in Philly weren't like this at all -- they struggled (A LOT) with reading but were interested in almost everything. ANYTHING could make them sit up and try. This one group of kids is just...so...apathetic.
     
  7. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    My first thought is making this 12 year old read in front of the group when he is going to keep making mistakes is a mistake. If he could read one on one with you it would probably go much better. And if others students are correcting him while he reads that is not good at all.
     
  8. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    May 21, 2012

    They are told not to correct each other because they are so rude about it. He is in a group of other struggling readers. I asked them all if it was okay to read in the group, and they were all eager to read. They volunteer...! They just don't pay attention when others are reading, or start fooling around... It makes me sound like an awful teacher but I know I am not. The seventh graders I work with aren't like this, and neither are the sixth graders. Even the eighth graders are better.

    I talked to him after we worked in a group and he is just so apathetic...but I suspect it's from repeatedly feeling like a failure. He is a good reader when he is reading things with familiar words, which I told him, and he brightened a little at that. So hopefully continuing to be kind to him will help. But it is so frustrating!
     
  9. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    May 21, 2012

    I know what you are going through and him, too. It is so hard to help them after years of failure and being behind the group. Maybe you could find out his interest and get him something about his level to read. I remember my first struggling reader in 4th grade. He was already retained and read about a 1st 2nd grade level.
    He quietly asked me not to make him read out loud in group. I took him in the hall to read. Good luck. You have a real challenge.
     
  10. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    May 21, 2012

    They have nothing to do in terms of something you can visually monitor - thinking being tough to monitor. Consider a prompt which involves doing like writing and illustrating three possible meanings. Then they pass their answers around the group with each member numbering best answers until all share and agree. Of course their answers must be written to your standards. Two goals going on at once - one to find the answer and two, which is more important, developing a work ethic.

    Correcting a student publicly, especially a defensive one, can be risky. Confident students generally take criticism in stride but students with issues will often strike back to save face in front of peers. Some teachers use a technique where the student reads aloud but says the word "pause" at any time which is a signal for the class (or partner) to read the next word then the student continues. Not only does this save the student from blundering on an unfamiliar word but, also, helps to engage the rest of the class.
     
  11. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    May 22, 2012



    I think I remember reading a similar comment from you in a similar thread, and I'm curious how you've come to the conclusion that interest in a subject is a personality trait?
     
  12. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    May 22, 2012

    It has to be an article of faith for teachers, I think, that students can change at any time for the better. I don't see how the job can be possible or our efforts meaningful if that faith is not in place.

    When I encounter a students who "does not care," I try to win him over, using all the various tools at our command. If I don't succeed, I try again. And again, and again, and again.

    That's my job in a nutshell: to continually try to help students to become better people and learners, and to maintain the faith that this is possible. Theorizing as to any deterministic etiology of failure doesn't interest me much, except insofar as such knowledge might yield another teaching tool to trump the alleged determinism I refuse to believe that any failure is irremediable.

    I am reminded somehow of e.e. cummings' fascination with the fact that toward the end of his life Monet had his assistants strap brushes to his hands, since he no longer had the strength to hold them, and he wanted still to paint. He never gave up trying to do what it was his calling to do.
     
  13. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    May 22, 2012

    Nicely put, TeachOn.
     
  14. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    May 22, 2012

    Not a specific subject, lack of interest in academics as a whole.

    It's a culture of failure.
     
  15. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    May 22, 2012

    Is there any way you could work with the student individually? Some students I have worked with in the past do better when it's just me and them... that's usually when they tell me they hate reading aloud in a group because they're awful at it and it's embarrassing. I agree with above posters who think that the attitude is a function of the reading difficulty itself.

    Also, I would like to respectfully disagree with the poster who thinks an attitude problem is ingrained in the (low income, usually minority) students. Kids and adults alike hear and see when others have a negative perception of themselves. If you were being sent many messages that you were less capable than the rest of the world, would you want to try quite as hard?

    I live in the suburbs of one of the many PA cities that is considered very inner-city although the city itself is fairly small (think Reading or Harrisburg). I sub in my local inner-city district. Every day when I read the newspaper, someone has wriitten an editorial about those no-good Hispanic people who abuse the welfare system. My friends talk about how they volunteer at some place or another and always know when THOSE kids come in because they have no manners and are so loud. Heck, even my parents ask me how I could deal with all the disrespect I must get from subbing in that district. I can't believe what I hear, sometimes. Those no-good, poor, tattooed, drug-dealing Hispanic people who are infesting a currently vibrantly white city (newspaper's words, not mine) are PEOPLE. And when I sub in that district, I get to work with lots of different KIDS on a daily basis. Some have attitude problems. Some are disrespectful. All are just kids who happen to be poor and need to deal with a lot more in their lives than I probably will ever need to. When I do get an attitude from some kid, I take it as being a sign that the kid is 11, not a sign that the kid is in a gang and has no-good parents.
     
  16. stephenpe

    stephenpe Connoisseur

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    May 22, 2012

    I agree that in a perfect world that is the answer. Your school sounds pretty perfect in many respects. But I have seen kids that demanded so much time and energy that it was eventually detrimental to the rest of the class as a huge amount of time was being used on one kid and 24 others were not getting their deserved attention. I am playing a little devil's advocate here but have been in those situations. But like you, I always take it as a challenge to save them all.
     
  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Right, this is what I'm talking about. Are you saying that you believe that children who don't demonstrate motivation or interest in learning (overall) are unable to change that status, but instead that lack of motivation or interest is a personality trait that is not able to be changed?

    Also, personality traits are very different from culturally influenced behaviors - so, if you are saying that lack of motivation is culturally determined or influenced, that is very different from saying it's a personality trait.
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I don't think we should make any assumptions - either that behavior is occurring simply because of the child's age, because of gang affiliation, or because of any other variable. Children behavior for a variety of reasons, including reasons that are culturally mediated, so to dismiss any possibility is probably dismissing important info that may help a child. I think this is probably your point, though - that we should take each child on an individual basis, rather than assume that membership in a particular cultural group automatically identifies the problem.
     
  19. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    Peach, do you do small group reading? Whole group reading can be boring, and even threatening, to those who don't read well.
    If this is an attitude thing, have you spoken to the parents? What consequences do they have if they give you an attitude during a lesson?
     
  20. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I work in a better school now, but in the school I worked at earlier in the year, saving them all just wasn't possible. I tried so hard to reach all of my students, but it became difficult when none of them showed any interest in learning, few of them did their homework, and only about two of my students were adequately prepared to learn the material. The discipline issue didn't exactly help.

    I worked extremely hard to help those kids, but the amount of stress I had was ridiculous. I wanted to save them all, but sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just isn't doable.
     
  21. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    May 22, 2012

    I agree~ I'm not saying give up, but if you've honestly have tried various ways of working on the problem and the student responses, you shouldn't beat yourself up.

    I have one darling student, who has lots of issues going on in him and in his life that learning is nearly impossible. I've tried many strategies to help him and nothing has worked~ I'd come home and cry over the fact that I couldn't figure him out. :( Does it mean I've failed him, I hope not, but if I can just reach a handful of students then I'm doing okay.
     

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