George Lucas Educational Foundation

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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Judi H.'s picture
Judi H.
Special Education Teacher

I keep at it and hope to eventually break into thier world. I know my BD students have very tough home lives and how do you feel good at school when home life is in shambles? Remember, even though they do not show it, this may be the safest time of their little lives.

Tys Momma's picture
Tys Momma
Grade Five Teacher

I have had my fair share of students who don't care. I have found most success in building trusting, caring relationships with these students. Get to know the student, what motivates them and what makes them tick? You will se an improvement when you build these relatioships - it makes learning relevant to them and they want to work hard to please you.

Luke's picture
Alternative high school English teacher, Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I try to get as much one on one time with those kids and work on getting them to connect to the school and at least one of the staff members. We build the trust, fight through failures, and keep it going when they turn it on. And if it doesn't, they eventually drop out and you try to get them to come back when you run into them around town. Then I try to do as many different types of assignments as possible. I also try to give them as many options to pursue what ever interests them. And then there is a the attempt to brainwash them by repeating the phrase "You are a human and humans are designed to learn" in the classroom. We will see how that works in the long run.

Ann Hyde's picture
Ann Hyde
Special Ed English teacher, Anchorage, Alaska

what works for me is sitting down with the student one-on-one. I start off by telling them something I admire or respect about them. This must be sincere, because these kids have remarkable BS radar. Then I ask them what they hope to do once they leave High School (NOTE: I don't say "after graduation"). Then we talk about how they can get to the goals they have in mind. Sometimes it means another sit-down meeting with parents and the student, sometimes it means tutoring, sometimes it means letting go of everything and letting the student flounder for a little while. But EVERY student I have spoken with like this has come back and talked with me at some point. They ALL know they matter to me.

Michelle Townsley's picture
Michelle Townsley
Teacher in Oxnard, California

I've done this as well, with mixed results. Some students are very responsive in the meeting, but make no changes in the classroom. Different students require different solutions some of which I have not hit upon yet.

Deborah Thiessen's picture

Jacki was right on. It takes persistence and creative finesse to reach kids. Imagine if you have failed repeatedly and continue to go to school. These kids have to protect themselves and you have to gain their trust. Keep the faith and know they are listening. Not talking too much and listening helps a lot.

Cheryl Adamchik's picture
Cheryl Adamchik
Special Education Teacher/Supervisor

Building a trusting relationship with students who don't appear to care is the key to success with them. Unfortunately it often takes a substantial amount of time to gain their trust and to show them that you truly do care about their success. I once spent over a year and a half building a positive relationship with a student who had been kicked out of every other school placement he had been in. He had also been removed from his biological family. Needless to say, society had "proven" to him over the course of several years that he was a throw away kid. It takes time and loads of patience and caring to break through something like this. Best of luck to you!

Tonya's picture
Special Education teacher from Texas

[quote]Jacki was right on. It takes persistence and creative finesse to reach kids. Imagine if you have failed repeatedly and continue to go to school. These kids have to protect themselves and you have to gain their trust. Keep the faith and know they are listening. Not talking too much and listening helps a lot.[/quote] Deborah was so right! I had one of these kids just this past year. Very difficult to deal with in addition to all your other students! I was lucky in the fact that this student also had a super general education teacher and a firm, but loving principal. We worked as a team. I told him, "I care about you. I will forget and forgive you every day as long as it takes for you to be successful here at our school." And that is what I had to do...every day I pretended like his horrible behavior from the day before was nonexistent (other than holding him accountable). It takes a load of patience! Don't give up...they are worth it!

Mary-Helen Rossi's picture
Mary-Helen Rossi
Business Director at Merge Education

As so many posts before me have said, it's all in the relationship! We've run an arts mentoring program for almost two decades, based on a mentoring educational approach my husband developed - and it's been amazing to me to watch that 180 degree turn, student after student, because they've gotten what they needed. Sometimes I think it's like a body that's deficient in vitamin B, that gets the right food and becomes healthy!

Bill wrote a wonderful mentoring and teaching guide about his "out of the box" approach - Venturing Together: Empowering Students to Succeed, which is available at our site ( or Amazon. I've seen a lot of teachers dig in to this approach and find success ... perhaps you could too. Good luck - you have one of the most challenging but potentially satisfying jobs ever!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I would also recommend reading Rick LaVoie's- The Motivation breakthrough- a great book that talks about why kids seem to be unmotivated and how to reach them. Often they don't want to try anything because they are essentially success deprived, ad it's easier to be "difficult" than to try and fail and feel like a disappointment or feel personal humiliation.

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