Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A struggle with students

Whew.....I'm having a hard time leaving work at work. There are a few students in my class right now that simply drain me. Advice from other staff has been "let 'em go, can't save them all." But I'm having a hard time just "letting 'em go."

How do you work with a defiant student? How do you reach someone who completely comes across as "I don't care"?

I've run out of magic wands. As bad as I don't want to just 'park em in the corner,' I don't know what else to do to save my sanity. My classroom is set up in cooperative groups, and I feel terrible when these students leave me no option other than to pull them from the group setting because they simply won't work and want to constantly talk off-task and distract the others.

So, my fellow teachers......what advice do you have when you have defiant students who refuse to do any work?

Oh, and my administrator....psht. Being sent to the Principal's office isn't what it used to be. Not an option I care to use.


Andee said...

I wish I had some good advice, lol. I only lasted a year teaching high school, hahah! I hope others come through for you and I commend you for being the teacher that hat is absolutely off to you!

Pamela said... advice from me. But I can promise prayer as you face your students tomorrow. I will be praying!


scraphappy said...

We've all been there. As many years as some of us have been teaching, for whatever reason, sometimes things just work out that way. I used to work in a school where neighboring teachers would make arrangements, I'd send her my bad apples and she would send me hers. They weren't learning anything, but at least they weren't egging on the rest of the class. Sometimes it is just about survival. Don't feel bad about parking them in a corner if that is what it takes for the rest of the class to learn. It isn't fair to the majority for you to spend all of your time and energy trying to force the unwilling.

Pokey said...

I'll pray for yours, and ask prayer for mine. I have just put one of my guys on a behavior chart, created just for him. I know his home life, and just that makes a teacher's heart ache. But, all that said, you don't want to sacrifice the whole class for the "one", either.
Not really advice, more like commiseration. :-}pokey

Ann Marie said...

Usually these poor kids don't have a life out of school. They act out more for attention then anything else. Even if it is bad attention they are getting. If you have a few of them, put them all together close to the front of the classroom, where you can sit at their table while the others do their work.

Glen Westbroek said...


I work in a Title One school and the home life stories of most children pull on my heart. Some students want attention at all costs. My philosophy has been all students want to and are capable of learning. Sometimes, however, behavior gets in the way of the learning. To help all students I do several things regularly.
1. I greet all students as they come to the door. Sometimes I comment on a new haircut or clothing.
2. If there is a behavior problem, I ask the student to wait in the hallway. When possible, I'd rather deal with problems myself than send a child to the office. In a few minutes, when the rest of the class is working, I speak with the child about his/her behavior. I ask them if this behavior is helping them succeed in school.
3. Based on student answers, I call the child's parent/guardian. When I have this conversation, I begin by telling things I like about the child in my classroom. I continue by letting the parent know what behavior I am observing that detracts from their child learning. I ask "What can I do that will help your child be more successful?" I continue "I want him/her to be successful."

My experience is usually very positive. Students who I think will have "less involved" parents often become good workers.

I challenge you to NOT give up on your students. Use another teacher's room if needed to maintain control and teach your students. Remember they are all your students. Each has a parent/guardian who wants him/her to become successful in life. Invite the parents to become a partner with you.

Julie said...

I also work at a Title I school, and I too have some challenging students. I even have some whose behavior continues if the principal walks into the room. Nothing intimidates them. I agree with Angela, you have to think of the majority. You can give them positive comments and try to help their self-esteem, but you don't have to let them steal an education from the ones who truly want to learn.

Quilter Kathy said...

I would be a terrible teacher for sure! I would let the "park 'em in a corner students" sit in the hall and wait, and teach the rest of the students who want to learn/graduate. When they decide they want to participate and apply themselves, they'd be warmly welcomed back. I think high school students are old enough to chose what they want. Of course I would always try to be irresistible to them LOL! I don't envy you -it's such a tough job.

Carl said...

Well, its spring and the dreadded "Dowanna" disease is spreading fast, you know, the disease that causes a kid to say, "I dowanna do nuthin".

Work with parents, you have some good suggestions listed in the comments, enlist others to help you. I have had some nice teachers on prep volunteer to walk a student from another teacher's class to mine when they are consistently tardy, (usually only takes once w/a teen - they don't like being treated as the child they are acting like).

We have worked with our admin enough for them to know what is a minor infraction at the beginning of the year is no longer that when it has been consistently practiced over the last 6 months.

Refer them to counselors, social workers, etc. We have a new counselor calling parents and pulling them back into kids lives, works a lot better that way.

Above all, don't let these lead weights drag you down, seek to do positive things with your classes and the hard work will pay off.

Thierry said...

Your perseverance emanates caring and not just to your audience here but to also to those who need it the most: those poor misguided kids giving you trouble. Slowly, by not giving up on them, you're winning them over. Don't give you up and involve their parents and or caring guardians.

Make sure you emphasize the positives, maybe even skip the negatives entirely with the parent/guardian for at least a few calls. If you must, heavily downplay the negatives you see everyday; they are probably used to the negative lights and will be expecting that. Surprise them and encourage them and they might just live up to your expectations. At the very least, their guardians will be more likely to work with you once they realize you truly care for their children.

Chris Fancher said...

My father-in-law told me "you can't save them all." It took me quite a few years before I stopped trying to "save them all." But that didn't mean I totally gave up trying to save some of them. Sometimes you can only make a small difference. Maybe you are the only one who is providing structure in their lives. Maybe you are the only one who knows that he or she is having problems because of a situation at home and by asking them how they are they feel somewhat safer. Maybe you are the only one who has given them a hug this month. Maybe you are the only one who demanded that they follow the rules this month. Maybe you're the only adult who doesn't call them stupid. Maybe you're the only adult who knows they like a certain type of music or a certain song. There are many ways that we can try to save them. It may take years of teachers like you trying before they start heading in the right direction. It may take years before they end up in jail. Either way, you should take comfort in the knowledge that you tried to make their life better. Thank you for trying.

dchittur said...

Lots of great comments above. Another idea is to give that defiant student a leadership opportunity. A chance to get attention for doing the right thing.

What has always worked best for me is to keep that student after school and talk to him/her. But in the last school I taught, that was not allowed...either they went to detention hall or they go home.

Sheila said...

I'm not a teacher, but my DIL is, so I know of similar struggles. I watched an old movie this past weekend which was based on a true story: Stand and Deliver. I'm not sure his methods would be PC today, but they worked! Another way to think of solutions is from a psychological point of view using Maslow's Hierarchy: Once food and shelter are met, a sense of belonging to *anything* is important, whether it's a gang or a guild. Best of luck!

NeverBored said...

Can you relate what you're trying to teach, to something they have a passion for? I was always a good student, but I found it easiest to learn when I could see the connection to how I would use the knowledge. My sister tutors kids who are having problems learning and her approach is always to find out what their interests are, and then approach the subject matter through that interest. Easier said than done when you are working one-on-one, I realize. The only teaching I've done is quilting. I loved geometry so teaching pattern drafting was right up my alley. So many times, particularly when drafting hexagons, I heard, "I wish I'd paid attention when we had this in school. I never thought I'd need to know this."

Andra Gayle said...

When you find the answer, send it my way

Amanda said...

I haven't taught secondary students, and it looks as if you have lots of positive ideas from other people. But with the benefit of hindsight I will say that your health has to come first; it's really not worth it to wear yourself out and compromise your own health. There are always going to be some children who slip through your net, and all you can do is to hope that what you have done has lodged within them somewhere and that they eventually find their way.

SheilaC said...

I can certainly empathize! I always want to save them all, and end up sadly disappointed (in myself)when I am not able to.
Lots of great advice here, but there are some kids that nothing works for. I am not sure why.
I do try to build a positive relationship with these kids, and sometimes that will help their behavior when they are with me, but not always.
And honestly, there seems to be less time to devote to these kids that need that little something extra... "the needs of the many...."
Good luck. I am in my own discouraging slump this year as well. Can only hope for a better year next year.