Source : Harvey Craft , suite101.com
Virtually all public schools have them. They principals know they're coming. One of education's most common problems has no single or quick solution.
It can be argued that the nation’s greatest failure is in educating students who seem not to care and who have parents who will not or cannot encourage them. Despite the best efforts of the best teachers the problem of apathetic students just won’t go away. Too many students continue to drop out of school and add to the social burdens of crime, welfare, and unemployment.
Teachers Must be Knowledgeable and Tough
Teaching apathetic students can often be a battle of wills. Teaching the totally disengaged requires teachers who will not quit and who can maintain a positive attitude in the face of what appears to be a determination to fail. There is no room for negativity from teachers whose enemy is apathy.
The most apathetic students will often be the most difficult to like. Their rejection of education will often require them to rudely rebuff any effort of a teacher to help. They seem unaffected by the lowest grades and unmotivated to correct a diversity of aberrant behaviors.
Most teachers are trained to instruct students who show at least a scrap of interest in learning. Few have personal traits, beliefs, and willingness to accept the challenges. Educating children who don’t want to be educated is difficult, and not all can be rescued. The use of the word “rescue” is important, for just as rescuing people from harm or death may require unconventional means, rescuing those who reject education requires “out of the box” thinking.
Reaching Parents is Important
With students who “just don’t care,” parents are a key part of the problem and the solution. Getting parents into the school for conferences and to help with some aspect of the school activities is crucial. Schools can invite the parents of the most troubling students to a free dinner an offer door prizes. Sponsors may be needed to fund such activities and should be recruited aggressively. Community leaders can be encouraged to volunteer as speakers. Parents should be offered realistic solutions and goals for their children.
Parents often stay away from their children’s schools because of painful experiences they had as students. To change parental attitudes requires that teacher perceptions include compassionate and realistic understanding of the parents. Teachers will not improve the problem by comparing atypical parents with normal middle class behavior.
To dismiss these students as simply uncaring is to over-simplify. Students who fail repeatedly despite being smart enough to pass may have a long and complicated list of issues from reading problems to drug use. Teachers must be advocates for these students. How the school treats the done and out is an indication of the quality of the school in general. Looking at the problem positively, dedicated people improve their skills by learning how to solve the toughest problems in their professions.
Teacher Support is Essential
Teaching well is a difficult task. Teaching students who seemingly could not care less is emotionally draining. Even though toughness is expected from these teachers, administrators must make it clear to them that are special. They must receive extra encouragement and administrators must support for their classroom needs.
Teachers who volunteer to teach difficult students should be encouraged to be creative and take reasonable risks. Their successes should be recognized and rewarded. They should have opportunities to expand and share special knowledge that is helpful in teaching unmotivated student.
Attitudes are Difficult to Change
Conventional education does not serve students who have given up. Their personalities often place then in conflicting situations with teachers and other students. Administrators must be advocates for these students and expect professional attitudes from teachers. The adults in the school may well be the only people who can have a positive influence on the lives of tuned out students.
Even teachers who are not actively involved in teaching the severely apathetic must be exposed to staff development that enhances understanding of contributing factors and positive responses concerning at-risk students and their parents.
Relating to the Unmotivated Student
Students don’t become indifferent overnight, nor will they begin to care quickly. Quick fixes are unlikely and early intervention is crucial. The longer students are exposed to desperate environmental influences, the more concrete their views become. Their coping skills may be adversative to academic success, but those skills are established for survival, not for learning.
To say that indifferent children deserve acceptance may sound peculiar, but considering that many have survived in environments that have provided little nurturing of the basic “goodness,” some credit is due. It is worth remembering that there are abundant examples of students who almost miraculously found ways to turn shattered lives into eventual success. At-risk students are often remarkably resilient, and teachers can enhance that quality.
The apathetic student needs positive role models and acceptance. Schools vary in the availability of human and material resources. Faculties will vary as to their abilities to manage the problem as it affects school environments and the troubled students. Schools will vary in their commitment to provide an environment for the few students who some will view as to blame for their dilemma. There is no single solution for such a complex problem.