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Lately, I've been thinking about my disengaged students a lot. My students who stare at me blankly, who go on their phones, who fail their assessments, and don't turn in a single assignment. I'm extremely new to the field of teaching, but I have been working on solutions for my students. I care for each and every one of them greatly. I've asked myself plenty of questions.
I've asked myself a lot of questions because there are so many reasons a student could be disengaged from my class. So I want to make sure that I cover every possible reason they are not engaged in my class.
Is it me? Am I not engaging as a teacher? I've evaluated myself on this, because as a student teacher it's important to practice self-reflection. I always have room to improve. Luckily, I only have a handful of disengaged students, so my hope is that it is not directly my fault that my students are disengaged.
So why are they disengaged? Why is it no matter how many times I explain something to them, they don't get it? Why do they not try? I don't think it is their fault either. How could it be?
I think of two specific boys in my 'French One' class. They are both already bilingual in Spanish and English, and are now taking a French class. They are both quiet, young freshman. I feel like I've tried just about everything. I have offered extra help, I have paired them with my students who are preforming high, I have asked them outright what could I do to help?
These two boys stared at me blankly. I try every day. One of the boys doesn't bring anything in his backpack. When I do my rounds, everyone has their notebooks and pencils out, but he has to ask a fellow classmate for paper, every day I give him one of my pens. I fear he doesn't have any supplies for school, his backpack is just full of crumpled paper. The other boy has all he needs, but he is just as equally disengaged.
We are halfway though the semester, at this point, bringing their grade up at this point will be extremely difficult, but it would not be impossible. Although, this week, I could tell that these two boys were done. They were done with French, they were done with the class, and they were done with me.
It could be anything. It could be me, or my mentor teacher, or both. It could be that they do not see the purpose in learning French. Perhaps they are disengaged because of something going on in their life that none of us have control over.
So when is it time to give up?
If you asked me a few weeks ago, I would've said never, but if you ask me today, I'm not so sure anymore. I have plenty of students who struggle with the content, but ask me for help, pay attention in class, and try. Is it fair to them for me to chase after the students who have given up and are not willing to work with me?
My conclusion for now is this: I need to leave them be, and respect their decision to not work in my classroom. I need to check on them once, and if they do not want my help, I leave them alone as long as they do not distract others. I need to put my focus and energy into my students who are trying (no matter how well they are doing). But this is not giving up. I am not giving up on my disengaged students. If they were to come to me next week and ask me for help so they can bring their grade up, I would do it in a heartbeat. I will continue to lesson plan with them in mind in hopes of making class interesting and useful enough for them to join in the learning. I just cannot chase after them every moment of my teaching day. Especially when most of my students are wanting attention from me that will actually benefit them.
This was a hard decision, but a necessary one. I hope they end up coming to me, asking me for help, but for now I need to make sure my engaged students are getting the attention they need from me so they can succeed.
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