Engaging disengaged students
The greatest challenge (and achievement) of a teacher is to gain the attention of all students in the classroom. This attention is interlaced with mutual trust, understanding and respect. It is the easiest thing in the world to label a student as “difficult “. Or “disengaged”. On the other hand, it is a herculean task to engage the “difficult “ or “disengaged “ student and establish a mutually beneficial relationship with him/her.
Question: Why are certain students disengaged?
Answers may be multidimensional. I, personally, could never be too engaged. I am a patient of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). But then that’s a rare case. So why a palpable lack pf attention in the classroom? Let’s try and delve into the possible reasons. As a teacher, it could be difficult to fathom the actual reasons behind this disengagement. Trauma, exhaustion, personal issues at home or beyond, lack of guidance, motivation and inspiration, boring lectures full of pedantry and jargons, feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, or a simple lack of interest in the realm of studies, could be one or more of the reasons behind the same. The only way to understand why a student is disengaged is to ask directly. Life does become easier then.
The challenges of facing and tutoring these students are diverse and multifold. The lack of interest they manifest could be infectious. (Like one person yawning makes all around feel sleepy.) Or, they could also create disturbances in the classroom. They would abstain from participation in class discussions, carry a general air of boredom (which could be very discouraging for the teacher) they could drown in a world of daydreams and fantasies, talk out of turn without being asked to and disturb the smooth flow of the class, thereby distracting others, they could give up easily on tasks, be irregular in class, and have poor attendance. With age, they could start harbouring anti social traits too, posing the risk of being discontinued from the institute.
So how to engage a disengaged student? The first important thing to do here is to build a bridge of trust with the student. Motivating them through one to one candid conversations, with real life examples, or even better, with examples from the teacher’s own life, could do wonders. It is that first step to an invisible bond growing between them. Talking it out always helps.
Next, depending less on theory and more on fun practical sessions where everyone gets to be involved, and there’s a lot of laughter generated, is another great way to engage all students. Laughter is the best way to sort out any blues. And laughter brings people closer.
Group activities where everyone needs to be involved comes next. A group play, with everyone playing a character, a group presentation on not-so-conventional topics, but on subjective topics close to heart (like boys talking about superbikes), and group discussions with great possibility of heated, animated exchange of ideas, all work wonders. Involve everyone. Let everyone come out of their shells…. All add to the creation of a robust, involved learning (and teaching) environment).
Finally, loads of appreciation for participation, plenty of words in praise, a hug or two when needed, prizes and incentives, make a winning student out of anyone. End of the day, It is the teacher who motivates, inspires and leads the way to a fantastic, warm, mutually engaging teaching-learning environment. Of course, there will always be those students who never turn up in class. But that’s a different story for a another day!