Blended classrooms: Motivating reluctant learners
The blended classroom is often considered a “dumping ground” for students with behavioral problems or low academic goals. This type of behavior continues unabated in the blended classroom. There will forever be those students who just do not respect, or realize the advantages of free public education. And it those students who, deciding not to work, find their entertainment being disruptive to others. Let it be known that this author is not an adolescent psychiatrist, there is no claim of professional cognitive studies, but the author is a successful blended room teacher with one Master’s and working on a second. The information you will find here are the observations and tactics created and used by this teacher, any similarity to the creative work of others is purely coincidental.
Every school system experiences these types of students. Very few teachers are equipped to handle these types of students as they see them as troublesome and interfere with successful class management. There is no panacea that will suddenly cure these students. As they have been around as long as education has existed, they will be part of education far into the future. And to answer the question of all new teachers, no, every student cannot be saved. They make their own decisions based on events in their lives and we, as teachers, have no control over. But there is a chance at planting that one possible seed in a reluctant student. Sometimes where or when the seed is cultivated may never be realized.
For the purpose of this article students will be divided and discussed in two distinct groups: Urban, Suburban/Rural. Members of each of these groups can have the “I don’t care about education” philosophy and essentially behavior in the classroom is the same. However, variables such as economic strata, home life, previous bad school situations, inferiority complex, and group participation affects both cohorts equally. Having worked in both Urban and Rural systems, this author has insight in to both types of students.
First, the don’ts list must be established before a list of affirmative steps can be made. Treat all students equally well, even if one may have a “0%” in your class. Remember that students are people, and a host of undiagnosed conditions may be present that no one is aware of. Let the little things slide. Some students carry a badge of honor when they are written up and sent to administration. Your threshold may be different than other teachers. The first two weeks of school are the testing phase where certain students will test you just to see how much you will take. They try to get you to send them to Administration. Getting out of class is worth more to them than a write up. Ask the student quietly in the ear (they love the attention from other students) to step out in the hallway. Walk out and shut the door. The conversation will be listed by the end of the article.
The following is a proposed inciting force behind student actions. Again, this author is in no way an expert on adolescent. However, these are true experiences and the positive rules set in the room that have been effective in the past. Not all situations will find resolution. All the teacher can do is try to reach the unreachable ones. Below is a list where you will find some general tactics to deal with the truly incorrigible. Remember that these scenarios and possible resolutions are meant for the blended classroom:
1. Do not let a student pull you into a shouting match. This action is playing on their terms. Quietly tell them to meet you in the hall. Ask the student what is causing the action.
2. Have serious private conversations with students about their reading ability, what their future plans are.
3. For the first few days say that there is no seating chart. Give out usernames and Passwords. Show a short video on succeeding in an online class. Watch which students interact in ways that are negative to the class. At the end of the day create a seating chart to separate these individuals.
4. You should only have three rules in class: Respect your teacher, Respect your classmates, and Respect yourselves. Any negative behavior is covered by these simple rules.
5. Gaming is the bane of the blended classroom teacher. If there is a way to bypass the games block on your system, students will find it.
6. Adolescents have innumerable relationship problems. While adults can readily resolve issues, often adolescents act out in anger.
7. Show each student their weekly progress. A visual of their performance carries a lot of weight.
8. Discipline silently and reward silently. The “know it all” myth is true.
9. Work closely with guidance and administration to intervene when a student starts to show the “I don’t care” attitude.
10. Your demeanor will dictate the actions of the students. Always remain calm and the students will follow suit.
11. You do not know what the student is experiencing at home. Try to get the student to open up before writing them off as a failure.