A new LYS Principal who recently took over the helm of a school asks the following: SC, What are your thoughts on student apathy and what is your solution? SC Response I’m going to give you the short answer and then a longer answer. First the short answer. Adult practice drives student performance. If you have a student apathy symptom, then you have an adult practice problem. Change adult practice for the better and the student apathy issue will solve itself. Now for the longer answer. Student apathy can be a very real problem when student have operated in an environment devoid of belief, expectation, prospects, meaningful relationships, support and/or success. In such an environment, many students protect their ego and self esteem by divorcing themselves from the system. The less they care, the less they can be hurt. Convincing such a student, especially an older one, to engage is not a quick and easy task. However, it is also not an impossible task. Here are some basic strategies. 1. Implement the Fundamental 5 at high frequency and high quality in every classroom. This is the first step in changing adult practice and each component of the Fundamental 5 has a powerful, positive effect on the Teacher / Student / Classroom dynamic. 2. Purposefully connect with students. Especially the ones that are trying their best to avoid you at all cost. Talk to them with respect and like they matter. This will throw them off guard because they are used being treated as cattle. Start doing this and their attitudes will soon turn around. 3. Create some fun and excitement in the classroom and the school. You will be surprised how a little semi-serious team-based competition will change everyone’s attitude. The student who doesn’t give a flip about you, his grades, or the school, will work his tail off to help his TEAM win the most inconsequential of awards. 4. Set goals and recognize and reward growth and improvement at the same level you do for overall success. Honestly, what is a bigger accomplishment? The GT student getting another “A” on a test or a sweat hog grinding out a “B-“ in a class that no one expected him to pass? Don’t keep that astonishment, excitement and celebration bottled up. Share it. Notice that I didn’t suggest punishment, blame, increased stakes or removal. If that worked we wouldn’t have a problem with apathetic students. We already dole out those toxic practices like they are cotton candy at the fair and look where we are.
Think. Work. Achieve.
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