“These students flat out refuse to work in my class…”

Written on
August 25, 2018
by
Peter Hostrawser
I often hear these words from frustrated teachers about their students not wanting to do any work in class. As an educational consultant, this is a challenge that many high school teachers face on a daily basis. It can become a vicious cycle of push and pull to “get” students to become engaged in the curriculum of any class.

When I hear teachers say this to me about their students, the first thing I do is to put the teacher in the student’s mindset.  I set up a fictional situation that puts the teacher in a moment where someone they don’t know anything about comes up to them and asks them to listen to them and do things for them.  I ask the teachers if they would do anything for that person? Most of the answers are no. Then I ask the teachers, still in this situation, what it would take for them to listen and do things that person?  

Answers vary, however, main items I hear many times include:
  1. I need to know more about the other person.
  2. I need to know why I should listen to that person.
  3. I need to know if this person is telling the truth.
  4. I need to know that this person isn’t wasting my time.

Bingo.  As teachers, we need to understand our students BEFORE we can teach them anything.  The students who flat out refuse to work in class are not bad kids. In my opinion, they are extraordinary kids who are questioning everything.  It is likely the teacher has not answered any of the four questions listed above to their students. I simply instruct teachers to replace “person” in the above four questions with “teacher.”

  1. I need to know more about my teacher.
  2. I need to know why I should listen to my teacher.
  3. I need to know that my teacher is telling the truth.
  4. I need to know that the teacher isn’t wasting my time.


These questions from students MUST BE answered before any curriculum is learned.  My advice is to get to know your students individually as soon as possible. Find one thing you notice or see about them that is positive and let them know you noticed it.  Ask THEM questions about THEMSELVES. My current superintendent, Dr. David Larson had a great quote in his opening address to our staff this year. He said to go deep rather than wide in education with your students.  I took that as to go deep in understanding your students rather than throw a lot of curriculum at them just to get it covered. These words have rung true for me and my students at the beginning of this school year. It’s never too late to start earning more about your students.  If you are a teacher struggling to get students to work in your classrooms, take a step back and go deep in understanding your students by putting yourself in their shoes.

Another way to #disrupteducation.

Peter Hostrawser
Creator of Disrupt Education
Change Outdated Traditional Educational Systems #Blogger | #KeynoteSpeaker | #Teacher | #Designthinker Founder & Chairman @OPRFschoolofbiz #disrupteducation
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