In your school, do all your students run to get into the classroom every morning? Is it hard to get them out of the classroom at break times or at the end of the day? When you teach creatively that’s the sort of thing that can happen.
‘My dad killed my mum’ he announced in class
We had quite a few disengaged students at one Australian school I taught. One day a student lets call him Dave [that’s not his name] was placed in my class mid-year whose father had murdered his mother. Dave had been expelled from other schools and as such his development was slow.
Dave was imprisoned in fear and anger against the world. At first he just refused to learn. Dave didn’t want to know. So, I endeavoured not to push him but allowed Dave to learn at his own pace. If he didn’t want to do an activity I didn’t push him but distracted him with another activity that was linked to the main activity.
Sometimes it was just a lower year level version of the task but presented in such a way that upheld his dignity. ie Don’t give a Year 5 student a Year 2 or 3 text book. That just makes them feel dumb. You the teacher must present the task in the conversation style of the year level the student is in.
I took time to make sure we chatted every day. I believe it only takes 10 minutes a day for a few weeks to make change happen in a students behaviour. You must, of course, show genuine care. Don’t overdo it. Just show some interest in the student even if it’s for 5 minutes per day, about their interests. Gradually the barriers went down. He couldn’t get enough of school.
Love Conquers All
Dave was no longer the disengaged student of two months ago. He laughed these days and well liked by his classmates.
I happened to overhear Dave talking with his younger brother outside the classroom window. Dave’s younger brother was quizzing him “Dad’s coming out of prison so why don’t you want to leave school and go with him?” Dave replied “I want to stay because my teacher loves me!” I couldn’t believe it hardly. Next day he left . . .
That’s the kind of unconscious feedback I’ve had which shows how engaged even the most difficult students can become. Average and above average students routinely outperform the Naplan standard.
Re-engaging disengaged students
I have since had more of those disengaged students in my classes who were way behind their standard for age. Teaching Creatively means that I not only assured that all basics were taught, it meant a committed approach to adapting and re-adapting my materials and approaches to grab the attention of even the most disengaged students. By focusing firstly on getting my students engaged in the classroom, behaviour management for me is only needed secondarily.
Of course, there will still be the exceptionally difficult student like Dave, but even then creative teaching helps one to differentiate and support learning even at that level. If you are interested to hear more, I encourage you to join our Love to Teach 101 Club. Also, feel free to comment below. Perhaps you have a similar experience to share.