Teaching Uninterested Students

By Dennis Alexander

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

I believe teaching uninterested students is demanding, but there are some effective ways to approach this challenge. I am one of those students who worries taking notes and turning in homework on time. But before college, in almost every classroom I attended, that wasn’t the attitude toward school shared among some classmates. Some students, during classroom time, seemed to be interested and talkative about everything except academics.  I asked friends and teachers from other classes if that was something common, and they said yes– there was usually a small group with this indifferent attitude. Some of the answers with which classmates justified their attitude were “it’s boring” or “dude, that stuff is irrelevant, it has nothing to do with me.” I asked teachers why this happening and they said “someone else is in control of how and what I’m supposed to teach”. It is based on what my classmates and teachers said that I will propose ideas to make a more productive classroom experience for uninterested students.

When I think about relevant assignments, a recent project comes to mind in which I interviewed an adolescent concerning his classroom literacy experience.  The interview corroborated the idea that students would be more engaged in academics if teachers, from time to time, relate assignments to student’s interest.  The adolescent and I understood student interest should be taken into account in classroom discussions, writing assignments or research assignments. Moreover, apart from relevance, students do not want their school experience to be boring. I remember how I liked when teachers went out of the take-notes-from-lesson routine and came up with projects. I also remember how infrequent those projects were. However, it does seem achievable and realistic to me for a teacher to include one or two of these cool activities per month. Those activities might include graphic organizers, group projects or class discussions. Considering a student usually attends seven different classes, students would enjoy at least seven different activities of this kind per month.

I didn’t understand completely the first time a teacher told me he was not in control of his classroom. It wasn’t until college that I understood teachers were required to teach subjects directly related to pass state exams, and that many times their teaching methods had to be in accordance to the school head administrator strategy to pass those exams.  I think this problem is deeper than the first one because it seems to be out of the teachers hands. My recommendation here is teachers should write and talk to school administrators about how this is detrimental, and propose more advantageous and less restrictive methods to pass the state exams.  I’m glad to know from college readings there are committed teacher movements against classroom control negatively influencing students’ learning.

Making these changes is not so easy; it requires teachers’ dedication and students will. However, I think any effort resulting in effective classrooms is worthy. I wrote some struggles and solutions I believe are relevant to schools today. Do you think of other ideas to solve these problems? Do you think of any other school related problems?

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