What Do We Do When Students Don’t Like School

I was just recently issued a challenge by a good principal friend of mine, Adam Welcome, to post ideas around specific topics each week.  I think it is a wonderful idea.  We have the opportunity to reflect each week on important ideas and share each other’s thoughts.  Last week, Adam posted a great blog on making schools great by addressing the idea of why students may not like coming to school.  I’ve thought about this idea for a week and I have a few thoughts.

In my district, our vision revolves around the PLC Essential Questions:

  1. What do we expect student to learn?
  2. How will we know what student have learned?
  3. How will we respond to student who haven’t learned?
  4. How will we respond to students who already know?

Wouldn’t be interesting to have another question: How do we respond to students who don’t want to come to school?  I’ve seen many different responses to such a question.  “It’s the parents’ fault,” “The child just doesn’t want to learn,” “There is a personality conflict with the teacher,” “Kids in the class are mean”.  The list of responses is quite extensive.  As I look at this list, I don’t see any solutions to the question and there is not any deeper conversation with the child to find out the real reasons why he/she doesn’t like school.  Excuses don’t help the child want to come back to school.  In fact, it makes it harder.  Instead we should think of what we are currently doing that is not working.

I’m a believer in differentiated instruction.  I think technology used right will enrich the learning experience of any student. I also believe the traditional methods of instruction are not reaching all students they way we should.  Are we taking advantage of methods that have been working in other schools and in the business world?  What about Genius Hour, Project based Learning, Flipped Classrooms, Gamification?

Are we really looking at what motivates students to learn?  Some think that a punishment and reward system works.  If we pay attention to the work that Daniel Pink has done, we know that this is not what drives success.  We need to employ methods that develop an internal drive to succeed.

I’ve been reading Mindset, a great book on the study of how the mind works.  It is interesting to read about the differences in a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  Considering the topic at hand, under a fixed mindset we come up with excuses and are satisfied with the idea that there is nothing more we can do to help every student enjoy at least some parts of school outside of recess and PE.  Under the growth mindset, we ask ourselves questions such as Jaime Escalante asked himself when helping his inner-city Hispanic students pass college-level calculus:  “How can I teach them?” not “Can I teach them?” and “How will they learn best?” not “Can they learn?”  I like what Benjamin Bloom concluded after his intensive research on school learning.  He said, “What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.”

We are in the business of helping every child reach their potential, even the ones who don’t want to be at school.  Let’s make it happen.

13 Comments

  1. Sheila Gfell said:

    I agree with your observations, but I also believe for many students, they do not have a sense of belonging to the school. If you notice the difference between students involved in extracurricular activities and those who are not, there is a huge gap in the pride each group feels. I believe this affects students’ desire to go to school.

    June 29, 2015
    • Rod said:

      So then, Sheila, our goal becomes facilitating belonging. I’ve been in too many meetings about too many situations for too many years in which staff raise their hands, give up, and collude with one another to make a list about what’s wrong with this kid and that family. Excellent link to “Mindset”, Kyle. I share your perspective. It is a minority in which we live and work, so I always appreciate the discovery of another ally. Richard K. Thompson…I’m right with you! Occam’s Razor comes to mind. Sometimes I think we make this much harder than it is. RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP–this is our Holy Grail, the key to the kingdom for the kids who hate school.

      July 3, 2015
    • Rod said:

      So then, Sheila, our goal becomes facilitating belonging. I’ve been in too many meetings about too many situations for too many years in which staff raise their hands, give up, and collude with one another to make a list about what’s wrong with this kid and that family. Excellent link to “Mindset”, Kyle. I share your perspective. It is a minority in which we live and work, so I always appreciate the discovery of another ally. Richard K. Thompson…I’m right with you! Occam’s Razor comes to mind. Sometimes I think we make this much harder than it is. RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP, RELATIONSHIP–this is our Holy Grail, the key to the kingdom for the kids who hate school for very good reason.

      July 3, 2015
  2. Laura Taylor said:

    I agree with the reflections above and would like to add that students will become enchanted with the learning process if we successfully engage them in the learning tasks. This requires effective student-centered lessons in all content areas, but it must first start with praise and validation of students’ efforts. We want to help students recognize the correlation between effort/perseverance and achievement. As students experience the successes from sustained hard work, they will develop healthier, more positive self-concepts and increased self-esteem. Ultimately, these students will gain an intrinsic motivation to come to school ready and excited to engage in learning.

    July 2, 2015
  3. James said:

    A great read, Thank-you for you insights on a very common challenge in our schools. You make the comment, “Instead we should think of what we are currently doing that is not working.” In some ways I agree, but having read ‘Switch” my thought is now different. We should be looking at the bright spots, the things that are working well, the students who enjoy school and seek to duplicate that for all students.

    July 2, 2015
  4. Tom Hoerr said:

    “Joyful learning” needs to be part of our goal. That doesn’t mean that education lacks challenge or isn’t rigorous. It does mean that kids are engaged, and that everyone in the building is smiling. What would we do differently to help make this possible?

    July 2, 2015
  5. Kyle, glad to see you raising this important topic and I appreciate the comments in response. I would love to hear your thoughts on the “10 Expectations” that students should be able to have about their learning experiences [in and out of school] that lead to engagement in deep and productive learning. They were described by Elliot Washor and Charlie Mojkowski in their recent book “Leaving to Learn” and here’s a link to quick 3 min animated video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K96c-TGnSf4)- intrigued to hear your thoughts?

    These “design criteria” undergird the approach of Big Picture Learning Schools (www.bigpicture.org)

    July 2, 2015
  6. Quintessential Questions…
    Relationship before Rules = Rejoicing…
    Flexible Learning Options…
    Trauma Informed Care…
    The paradigm of education…
    S.T.A.R = Students Taking Academic Responsibility / Staff Taking Academic Responsibility

    Just a few thoughts about this brilliant article..

    The Magnum Opus of the student is formed and influenced by the school they attend…
    What are we as educators creating?

    Carpe Diem

    RKT

    July 2, 2015
  7. Barb said:

    My question is, “What is YOUR expectation of school?” Are you looking forward to each day, to each class, and to each student? If you don’t want to be there, why should a student? Every day, before I walk into the building, I paste a big smile on my face, no matter how I am feeling. When I see a student in the hall, I say, “Good to see you! I’m so glad you’re here!” When I am in the classroom it is “this is what we GET TO do today.” Do I have 100% enthusiasm in my classroom? Of course not! But I have students who are willing to try even the driest geometric theorem. I can only control my actions but I can hope that I can at least establish a positive environment. The funniest part of this is that even if I start the day feeling hypocritical with that big fake smile, I usually end the day feeling pretty good about things.

    July 3, 2015
  8. Joanne said:

    Motivating students requires that the following needs are met:
    – a feeling of competence
    – autonomy
    – relatedness
    If a student feels that they can achieve mastery over their learning (which includes a provision for low-stakes failure and scaffolding to help them attain success); have a say in their school experience; and feel that they are connected to the school community then they are much more likely to enjoy their schooling experience!

    I would also like to add that we need to be careful with how we use gamification. If the focus is on the attainment of points or badges then we are supporting extrinsic motivation. Ideally we need to support students’ intrinsic motivation. Also flipped learning should go beyond flipping a lecture and homework. It also needs to support solid pedagogical practices.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article!

    July 4, 2015
  9. Ramis said:

    BEST!!GUIDE!!EVER!!!

    I’m a huge fan of guest-posting! I landed a guestpost on NewsX & India News in my first month as a freelance blogger. It was such an awesome, heady feeling, and it was liked so much, that I was roped in the content department of India’s biggest news network. Even though my website needs a ton of work, like more authors, more sponsors, more contributors etc (hence generating traffic isn’t anywhere in my agenda), I write guest posts just to get my name out there in front of potential clients.

    I’m going to implement your tips when I start pitching to the bigger guns out there (Huffington post, Forbes, Business Insider). Bookmarking this article!

    Thanks,
    Ramis

    July 15, 2015
  10. Thank you Kyle – interesting question, and thoughtful comments. I am fully on-board with “Mindset”. Add “Drive” and “Who Owns the Learning?” into the reading mix and we begin to understand the factors that empower learners and make them want to make contributions in school, and beyond. A great majority of our learning happens informally. Educators should get to know their students. What are their interests, talents, and passions? Invite their “informal” learning into the classroom and ask them to reference their learning artifacts to standards written in their own words. My two cents – thanks for the opportunity to engage in this conversation. Bob

    August 11, 2015
  11. Nyse said:

    Yes I belive many schools don’t realise that children who can’t concentrate, don’t necessarily have a learning difficulty but rather have a different learning style than the traditional academic system. It’s about time we promote more creativity and project-based learning rather than sitting at your desks following the same ongoing curriculum.

    June 27, 2016

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