What If My Reader Doesn’t Care?

I really dislike confrontation. By nature, I am a people pleaser and an introvert. I get along really well with students who do their work, are polite, ask questions, and help other students. However, students who have an attitude or visibly don’t want to be in class make me uncomfortable.
And I love it!

Conflict Leads To Solutions

Every year I have taught at least one student who has displayed some form of apathy or disinterest. I know some kids don’t like English. I know everyone likes some subjects in school, while others subjects are awful. You don’t have to love the subject to do well. Effort and attitude are everything!

One year I taught a 7th grade young man who regularly forgot to turn things in. He knew that even if he got bad scores, he would still be moved to the next grade level. I tried to encourage him to turn in work. I tried to create assignments that would get him writing. It didn’t work. He didn’t care.
So I lied. It was a little lie. I told him that if he didn’t pass class he would have to repeat the same class over the summer. Some school districts do this, some don’t. The district I was in didn’t do summer school, but he didn’t know this. It turned him around. He knew that he didn’t want to do work over the summer.

This year has been different because I’ve been teaching Sophomores in high school. They need to pass or they don’t get the credit and have to take the class again or do a credit recovery packet.

Sometimes Let Behavior Simmer

Because I love to read, I want to foster that love in my students. I know not all are going to love reading, but my hope is that maybe they will find the things that they like to read and will accept that as a part of their lives. I permit all forms of books. Paper books, eBooks, audiobooks, nonfiction, graphic novels, everything counts as reading. As a result, students are often on their phones for the first 15 minutes of class. It’s quite funny really, when I get questions about grades or citizenship marks. As if reading a book requires so much swiping and tapping. I can hear what you’re listening to, it’s so loud (and it’s not a book).

One student asked about this terms grade. The assignments were terrible for sophomore level writing. No elaboration, no details, no supporting evidence. The writing was basically skimming answers to say the assignments were done. When the question was asked, “What can I do to fix my grade?”, I responded with, “Do the work. Fix it if it’s not good enough. Edit and revise”.

The Confrontation

It happened just before the winter break. It wasn’t really a confrontation, but the student was obviously frustrated.
My heart was racing. Did I mention I have a hard time with conflict?
And then, it all came out in a rush. “You’re not doing your best. You’re not reading a book when we read. Your writing isn’t a real attempt to address the prompt. I don’t believe you’re writing is going to help you when you take the ACT test next year. You’re not even trying. You play sports, right? If your coach is mean to you and doesn’t seem to like you, but you want to be first string, what do you do?”

I think their response clicked. “I do my best no matter what.”

“YES! No matter how good you think you are, you will succeed if you do your best! Show me your best writing. Find a book you want to read. Try like you care about your future. Especially if you want to play sports in college!”

Whatever my students’ goals, I want them to be successful. Sometimes they need to figure what that looks like for them. There needs to be consequences for inaction. Whatever that looks like in your home, stand strong. Set rules. No matter how much they whine or yell or cry, stick to your rules. You’re helping your child succeed by setting expectations.

Help them find something they like to read. Read with them. Set time aside where all technology is off. You will be teaching persistence, growth, and success.

I hope this helped.

Read on!



Do you have a special situation that could use some specific advice? Let me know in the comments, or send me an email. I’d love to help!





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