Challenging the Demotivated





created at bighugelabs

created at bighugelabs

This post is written for Shelly Terrell’s #30 goals challenge.

It was some years ago. I had the prep classes then which means I had 12 hours with the class to teach grammar. The students I had that year were the laziest or the most demotivated ones in my teaching career.

They didn’t have the habit of studying, no responsibility for school work. They were like 10 year-old kids although they were 14 and 15.

Most of the times I was angry and I was feeling we were going nowhere.

I remember spending nights to find a way but the first term ended in a total failure.

Then suddenly I realised there were things I could do.

We had a reading text on music and Beatles and I found out they knew nothing about the group so I told them we would work on a project on that Friday afternoon. I assigned them to research Beatles and bring as many things as they could to the class.

On Friday afternoon, I entered the class with colourful cardboards, pens some Beatles pictures (just in case they didn’t bring), my Beatles CDs (those were the days we had no wireless in class and also no YouTube), packets of crisps, plastic cups and plates and coke to drink. I told them it would be an edible Beatles afternoon and while working in groups they ate, drank, chatted and listened to Beatles songs. The fun they had was immense. Their posters looked gorgeous then we put all th0se Beatles posters on the corridor walls for the others to read.

From that day on we had fun Friday afternoons to create new posters on different subjects.

Some of them were more eager to do something. I remembered a colleague advising us to praise the kids before criticising them and that was it actually. I mainly criticized those kids without trying to praise them. Then slowly I said how they were improving themselves and then challenged them. If any of them got a better mark than his/her previous test, I’d take them to drink coffee with me at one of the bookstores cafes. ( not only the highest mark, I encouraged even a slight progress)

In the bookstore, we really had great time having our tea and coffee and then spent some time examining the books on the shelves and they really loved the idea. I realised they enjoyed chatting with me. Me…  a teacher, a former foe. On the way home, one of them asked ‘what will be the next challenge, teacher?’

The next challenge?

I wasn’t prepared for that and told them I’d tell in the class.

The next challenge was a traditional 5 o’clock tea at my home. I made them scones, finger sandwiches and a sponge cake.

We had so much fun that year till the end of the term.

Of course for the edible afternoon and the going-outs, I asked the principal and their parents.

At the end of the term, they wrote a sketch and performed to their parents. From the entrance of the school to the auditorium, we stuck the posters they created on the walls to direct the guests to the venue and they were so proud of themselves that day.

Some of these kids dropped out of school the next year unfortunately. Yet I hear they are doing quite well to survive. Some others managed to graduate and some of them won the university entrance exam and they are studying now.

I sometimes meet them at that bookstore buying books.

They still call me or sometimes they DM on face book to inform what they are doing.

Those kids were actually my challenges. While I was challenging them, they helped me to enter their lives and find a way to do my job. I learned from them that a teacher should never give up. Success is a relative concept. Some of those kids had problems at home, some had poor primary backgrounds and even a little progress is a success in some cases.

Last but not least, the lesson I got from this experience: Food and music can open all the doors 😉

8 comments on “Challenging the Demotivated
  1. In the words of the beatles:

    “All you need is FUN”

    And that’s not completely true, but we do need to stimulate the classroom flow whether it’s through fun activities, or “deep thoughts”, or relating it somehow to their personal lives in a way that will activate them.

    Great story, and I’m glad to see that it got you over a bump! Cheers, Brad

  2. Eva, what a wonderful post!

    Another post which shows you are an excellent educator and any student is lucky to be in your class, as they will be given individual attention and their respective abilities will be acknowledged.

    I love what you did with them, teaching them in different settings and the kids learning, sometimes even without knowing it! I am sorry you had a difficult first term with them but so happy the rest of the year was great. I was also soory to hear that some of them dropped out of school, but glad for the rest who persevered.

    Eva, thank you for sharing this.

    Kindest regards,

  3. Eva,
    I really enjoyed this story, and I can totally identify with it. I too have been learning that our effectiveness as teachers multiplies as we focus on developing meaningful relationships with our students. No relationship = low levels of influence. I know in my experience as a student, my best teachers, and the ones who impacted me the most, were the ones who took the time to invest in me as person vs solely sticking to what they had to teach.

    I think wise teachers combine both: relationship and teaching what needs to be taught.

  4. That’s a wonderful story, Eva. I wish, more teachers would try to engage more with their students. If you get to know your students, and they get to know you, the atmosphere in the class room really can be something special. And when you’re having fund, it is much easier to learn certain things.

  5. Hi Eva,

    I really admire you for your dedication and hard work! I agree that it is vital to build a reationship with every child, it helps in so many different ways. Good classroom management is impossible without it – at least in Middle School! Hoever, I could never invite students to my home or go out with them after school. I am too busy for one, and also I don’t want to mix my professionl and private life. For that reason I also don’t accept students as FB friends. I know that closer teacher-student relationships work for some teachers, as well as more “friendly” teaching styles, but they don’t for me. I much prefer the “mother” role to that of “friend” and I often remind my students that I have a son just their age 🙂 Sort of an “I love you” paired with “but I expect…” and “I will do what’s best for you whether you like it or not” kind of style. That said, I want a teacher like you for my daughter!
    PS! Not long now…

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