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Kids who do not care...

Kids who do not care...

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How do you deal with students who just do not care. I have students that really do not care if you are speaking to them, looking at them, or yelling at them. How do you reach these kids besides talking to them about their interests and making a personal connection, because that already did not work. These students TRULY just do not care about you, about school, about work, even about getting rewards. Help!

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Meredith Ribeiro's picture
Meredith Ribeiro
1st Grade Teacher, Urban School District

Hi Laura,

I have had plenty of students over the years who seem "not to care" about me, school, school work, rewards, grades, etc. It has even stumped our Intervention & Referral Services Team when I have brought this issue to their attention. Once thought, I was able to have the guidance counselor, the ESL teacher, Dad, and Aunt meet with me, and after discussing the student's attitude and lack of progress, we invited the student into the meeting. She saw the group of adults sitting there, all people close to her, and she froze. We spoke with her about our concerns and how we didn't like certain behaviors she was exhibiting (refusing to do homework for the Aunt, refusing to work in class, having a negative attitude, etc.). The student did an immediate 360 within minutes! The change was amazing and I credit having a whole room full of people who the student knew cared about a lot about her!

Good luck & hope this helps!

Merri Fretwell's picture

Hey Laura,
I've experienced something similar to Laura. We called it a Focus group. The group consisted of the teacher initiating the group, an administrator, a teacher of the student's choice, and a student/peer of good standing of the student's choice. The Focus group would meet with the student outside the room to brainstorm at least 3 strengths and possible goals to help the student be successful. The student would be invited to the group. We would discuss his/her strengths, and then we would ask that student what goals he/she needed to be successful. We may or may not use the goals we brainstormed. The group would then outline a contract stating the strengths, goals, support systems, and a plan of action. We would outline consequences for obtaining goals and outright non-compliance. We would also include a follow-up meeting date (usually 3 weeks). We would all sign the contract.

The meetings usually lasted 30 minutes and were very powerful. We also tried to include parents, but the kids we worked with typically didn't have parental support.

Best wishes!

Kay Hartness's picture

This is a problem that seems to be spreading throughout the country. I don't believe there is an easy answer. I've heard people blaming everything from television and movies to lack of attention at home. No "solution" lasts for very long. You really must be innovative and on top of things. As soon as one method stops working, jump on it with the next. Make a list of what has and has not worked in the past and jump back and forth so that the students don't know what your reaction might be, but always make it positive.

Jacki Scholle's picture
Jacki Scholle
High School Special Education Teacher from Fairbanks, Alaska

Students who seemingly don't care are the hardest ones to reach and teach. My key word is "seemingly" because when you dig a little deeper it becomes clear that these students do care, they have dreams and aspirations, and want to be successful. I believe that they have experienced so much failure in their lives that they put on a mask to hide behind so that they aren't risking as much. I love the idea of a focus group to help them see that people do care and do want to help them. It would be great if all students could experience an immediate 360 like Laura's student, but It is very hard to break habits, and that includes habits of the mind. Intense attention to the student, daily discussions about what is going on, contact with other teachers, and a willingness to go beyond the school day with the student are what is needed. When students know that they have at least one teacher or adult who is there for them, amazing things can happen. I know because a student I've worked with for two years just graduated!

Joyce Whitley's picture
Joyce Whitley
High School English and Special Education

I agree with Jacki. I work in a rural high school in a small town in North Carolina. Many of our students have minimal support at home due to parents just trying to make ends meet. The kids who have the biggest "don't care" attitude are also the ones who are the most needy of our time and affection. My phylosophy of what a high school special education teacher and / or case manager should be has changed drastically since I first began. I know there are state tests and standards that kids have to know by the time they leave high school but as a case manager and teacher for the kids with the most emotional baggage, I consider myself more the one person they can come to and trust. I try to make those connections. I talk them and they talk to me. I try to keep a sense of humor with them and eventually they end up caring because they know that there is someone out there cheering them on, hoping to see the best in them come out! I can't say it always works but in my experience when I put the student first and let them know that I am there for them, no matter what, they find a trust and a reason to care. I had a phone call last Thanksgiving from one such student who had graduated two year before. This comment I will never forget, he said, " I am all alone and I just wanted to call someone that cared about me. My mom just dumped me off with a friend and never came back and it just seemed like I should call you." That is my job. He went from a kid who shoved a teacher into a wall to a student who everyone in the school saw great growth as a human being. If he never reads Shakespeare or knows the battles of the Civil War he will know that someone on this great big planet cares about him.

Tammy's picture
Fourth grade Inclusion Teacher from Spring Hill ,Florida

It seems like there are children who just don't care in every school. I work in a small Title 1 school. We have such a high rate of poverty that it is difficult to get the parents to come to school. We often have parent nights and find that they are more successful if we provide a meal. I also try to call parents twice a week to see how things are going. As far as motivation goes, that is a tough one. I reward the students who complete assignments and are respectful to each other and to their teachers. That has been really successful this year. I agree with Joyce, students have to know you care and trust you. That's something I try to convey, that I am always there for them.

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