Disengaging students can be a teacher’s blessing in disguise.
After reading article, “When Students Don’t Play the Game” by Jessica Towbin, in Educational Leadership Feb. 2010, I found a refreshing light of self-analysis. Although I consider myself an experienced high school teacher with an open mind and decent management and lesson design skills, Towbin does help clarify how we can all benefit by really listening and observing all the kids within a classroom. Just last Friday we had an angry teenage boy storming around the library bothering everyone but mostly me, who was trying to create a conducive studying environment for upcoming final exams. With some patience and a few phone calls we learned he was undergoing major trauma in his life and really was hoping to get someone to listen. He really just needed to not be at school that day and let his home stresses run their course. If I had confronted him with justifiable defense of the group in the library, I would have only made the quiet study environment more disruptive. Rules and good intentions within a class setting need to be flexible enough to adapt to the ebb and flow of teenage life. Rigid classroom management techniques often do not work. What the incident did generate was my own assessment of my notion of quiet and also helped me realize that many of the well behaved students still did not understand the true meaning of study hall. Many do not know how to study or understand the need some kids have for quiet and calm. Angry boy or not, I need to teach and discuss study methods with the library patrons not just assume they know.
“..My current students, on the other hand, don’t play the game of school. They do not suffer fools gladly and they do not offer strangers the benefit of the doubt. They broadcast their disengagement through either words or actions…” (Towbin)
“…A personal narrative is presented which explores the author’s experience of teaching disengaged high school students with a history of non-compliance by changing her focus from control to inquiry.” (EL)
Towbin, Jessica. “When Students Don’t Play the Game.” Educational Leadership 67.5 (2010): 42-45. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 14 June 2010.