Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Disengaged kids are inconvenient

If you are a teacher, it should be fairly easy to picture a student who learned a lot in your class. They were thoughtful and attentive. They showed creativity and an intrinsic desire to participate in class discussions. They asked follow-up questions on their own time, and said 'hi' with a smile when they saw you in the hallway.

Then you go to a staff meeting with your teaching colleagues and you hear how this same student does not learn much in other classes. They are thoughtless and inattentive. They show little creativity and no desire to participate in class discussions. They never ask questions, and are generally disengaged, bordering on rude.

But this is the same kid.

It's easy to blame the kids, but we have to acknowledge that there has to be some other variable that is influencing such a difference in behaviour. 

The misbehaviour is not the problem - rather it is a symptom of a far larger problem that has more to do with forces external of the student. But if this is true, teachers, parents, schools and whole systems might have to look at their own practices and that, for the most part, is more than a little inconvenient.


  1. I think the most underrated teacher skill (if you can call it a skill, perhaps a trait) is humility. It's hard to take a child who is checked out and ask yourself, "What have I done to motivate this student?" It's even harder to ask that same question to the student.

  2. I think it is simply easier for the teacher to blame the child rather than admitting their teaching style may not benefit that child. All kids learn differently and if the teacher is not using different strategies to help their students learn then they could be problem, not the student.

  3. At my school it's usually something like they say "You're in *insert whatever grade they're in at the moment, possibly including honors programs* act like it." and other variations of "This is how it is in my class, suck it up and get good grades." In fact I think it's rare that you'll find two teachers that teach the same, especially in math class, which is annoying because you have to learn each new class how they want certain problems to be done and how much work you have to show to not get points marked off.

  4. You might enjoy Part 1 of Teacher Talk:

    So much is possible when a teacher cares enough for his or her students to keep looking at what they can do to encourage them to flip the intrinsic learning switch. There's nothing more exciting than being in the presence of a motivated child - it's worth never giving up on.


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