As educators I know that any and all caring professionals go above and beyond the call of duty when working with students. Yet for some students no matter how much we push, or how much we reward, or how much we reprimand, or how much we encourage they simply do not respond. There are students out there who do not have the intrinsic motivation to do well nor do they have the push from home demanding they perform. These are the hardest kids to reach. There are of course specific reasons for each student as to why they might not be motivated. Some kids just don't like school, some kids have major issues at home which make school obselete; and some kids appear to not care when really they are struggling and are too shy to ask for help.
As each kid is different I in my own career have had success by getting to know certain students on an indivdual basis so as to see how they "tick". This way I can appeal to their likes and desires in order to motivate them. This does not always work, and more often than not does not always stick (as they move on in their schooling). I will also try to appeal to adulthood, as in; what do you expect to do when you grow up without an education. Even this does not work as most students do not realize that the habits formed in school will follow them the rest of their life. Also as we all do so much it is hard to reach every individual student.
So...how do we reach the kids who seemingly do not want to be reached? How do you make someone care about something that they in their mind believe they despise? Thank you all for any and all comments!
Some at-risk students, the unmotivated students, need to learn they are valued.
I offered my teachers the opportunity to attend a professional development training on technology integration but asked them to rent a kid for the short afterschool session. By this I mean they were to bring an at-risk student from their class with them to the training. When the two went back to the classroom, after learning a new tool or new interactive, they supported each other in remembering how to use it.
This was bonding time between the teacher and the student; the student learned something new along side the teacher (some of whom were technophobic, students never seem to have those same fears).
Most important may have been that the student learned that he/she was valued. What a motivating factor!
Perhaps this only works in smaller groups, but I've found that working backwards a bit moves you forward. I've often tried to reach out to our youth groups with similar attempts that you have mentioned with some success. However I found that when I pose adverse questions, just to get a response from them, that it snowballs with negativity at first then the other more positive kids redirect the conversation and usually hit the nail on the head. I was previously told this may lead to an unruly situation but as long as you can cut it off from being too negative or extreme, it gives you a glimpse of what is causing the lack of motivation in those hardest to reach kids. My own child's example changed my mind. She was cute but clumsy and whenever she stumbled, she would say," I'm sooo smooth.." or when she made an obvious, embarrassing mistake, "I'm sooo smart.." I saw her counterparts moved to laughter but not as a result of derision but as more of an admission of a little of themselves in her. In this way of using backwards thinking she endeared herself to others in her classes and youth group who otherwise had been distant or unreachable. I believe the key is using the other kids to make the connection through the back door and get the seemingly unmotivated kids to let go of their initial inhibitions and negative expectations, allowing you to redirect their negativity into action and then into positive action.
If you can create some classroom learning experiences in which unmotivated students achieve a level of success, that may help spark their motivation. Sometimes the lack of motivation in students is due to the number of times they have failed at tasks. After a person has experienced failure repeatedly, it takes away any pleasure in learning. Turning this around and giving these students opportunities where they can succeed should help make a difference.
Another possibility is locating someone older (age 20 to 30) in the community who has a connection with these students (maybe someone who was unmotivated in school and now has turned his/her life around). Perhaps that individual would be willing to be a guest speaker in your class. Sometimes hearing a personal story can inspire young people to "get their act together."
Relevance - at risk students often do not believe that whatever is being taught in the classroom has any relevance or value in their individual lives. Some of these kids face situations when they leave the classroom that are so far removed from anything that we have experienced that they shut off what we are offering because it simply doesn't seem relevant to them. Add to that the fact that their lives are so different from our own that we, as their teachers, have no credibility. Who are we to try to suggest to them what they need to know to be successful in their world when we have no idea what spending a day in their shoes is really like?
I think working to establish both credibility as an instructor and relevance of what we are offering is critical to reaching some of these more difficult students who seem, on the surface, to be unmotivated when simply they don't see the value of what you are selling to their own personal lives. This works in conjunction with Lynne's suggestion to bring in a guest speaker but I also think there needs to be a more direct, daily way to do this.
Student directed lessons are helpful here; almost as if you allow the student to tell you what he/she thinks is worthwhile learning. If they could offer a starting point, perhaps they would be more invested in where it leads.
I also struggled with unmotivated learners when I was teaching. Each day I wanted my 5th grade students to spend time writing. While I thought I was doing a great job in coming up with story starters, my students thought otherwise. So one day I decided try a different approach and put up the prompt of “I don't need to learn to read and write because....” They all gasped and thought I had lost my mind. I assured them I hadn't lost my mind, but really wanted to understand them better. Needless to say I think that was the quietest I had ever seen this class!
That night when I was reading their papers I truly began to understand why some of them were not motivated to learn. The next day (as I did each morning) I read aloud the best paper. The title was “I don't need to learn to read and write because I am going to sell drugs”. Again the class gasped when I started to read aloud the paper. After I finished, I explained to the class that while I didn't agree with the author’s view point I thought his essay was written beautifully. For me, that was the turning point with this group. They needed to know that they could feel safe in writing their true feelings and not feel mocked or judged for what they believed. By creating controversial writing prompts they could all voice their opinions and then we could practice dialoguing and debating in an effective manner.
I also think unmotivated students work better in a 21st Century Classroom. Mark Moore has a really good webinar with lots of ideas to implement 21st Century Learning. If you haven’t been to his session, I encourage you to attend (I don’t think you’ll be disappointed)!
I love everyone’s suggestions and can’t wait to keep reading how else teachers are motivating students! Has anyone else seen that when you type in the keyword “motivated” into the Thinkfinity search engine you get lesson plans on engaging students? How cool is that
I see we have covered relevance in the replies, and relationships. But maybe we are forgetting rigor. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the motivation problem lies in the lack of challenging curriculum content, methods or even assessment. Maybe we need to make it hard enough to be worth doing. There is research coming out regularly about the value of a struggle and evidence that students do better when they have taken harder courses. Maybe it is not really lack of motivation, maybee they are just bored stiff! I, for one, am going to increase my rigor and see if it makes a difference!
Quite simply, by getting to know your students. All students are interested in something, and if you can tap into where the interest lies, you can help the student. If I know the student likes sports, I discuss a sporting event for a minute during class, then I make the transition to whatever I may be teaching that day. In many instances, I am able to make the topic relevant to current events. I will admit that this may be an easier task for me because I teach Social Studies, but I think there are ways to make all subjects interesting. DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION
I am just beginning to get it figured out but, yes, I am seeing some success. I did make a MAJOR mistake. I did not explain it to my third graders. The rigor would have been more productive if I had started out by telling them that it would be hard and that hard is ok. I only recently realized that we needed to talk about the value of struggle and how it helps us learn. I have been talking about it for a few weeks and my students are starting to buy into the concept. We were doing a very challenging math (designed for sixth grade and I have rather low third graders!) activity with fractions and one of my students told the whole class "I am struggling with this, I must be learning:" I was excited because in the past, students would have cried, complained, whined, etc. Now they are learning to embrace struggle and like hard and recognize learning. So I think it just may work. Thanks!
I have worked with many corporate sponsored projects over my years in education. In one project we brought together several groups, consisting of teacher(s)+three at-risk students and gave them a laptop server and three desktop computers. We taught each group how to set up their network and maintain it when they went back to their school or organization. We also taught them how to deliver basic computer instruction and gave them various websites of interest to share .
It was this very successful project, carried out on a grand scale, that inspired me to use the model in school/district trainings with teachers. Teachers can never have enough extra hands in the classroom, even now as they are becoming less techno-phobic. At-risk students are always in need of ways to find value in their work and their relationships. The rent a kid approach was very successful at all grade levels.
You can cover two or three Thinkfinity interactives in a 30 minute training session. It was always interesting to me to see the teacher and student start brainstorming right away on how they would introduce and use the technology in the classroom. They quickly became partners in their adventure.
I think it is important that students are active partners in their learning!
As a veteran teacher who works in a low-income area high school where most of the students do not share my cultural background, I will share a few key things. ACCEPT them unconditionally (NOT their behavior - THEM) and teach them to BELIEVE in THEMSELVES. "SHOVE WITH LOVE" - everybody has something to love about them - find it!! ACTIVELY LISTEN to your students when they speak to you - whether it is in answering a question, or asking for a pencil. Treat them with utmost RESPECT - especially when they are not being respectful.
I'm the teacher down the hall whose students are successful and respectful in her room when they are often neither everyplace else.
These are comments for every teacher to repeat to themselves each morning as those smiling faces enter their classroom.
I think of the teachers who grumble because they don't get respect from their students, but I bet your students do show you respect. And I'm equally sure that modeling this behavior helps your students show respect to each other. And just maybe this attitude goes home with them. You are doing a wonderful service for your students and their families.