Monday, January 13, 2020

Hard To Reach Students



We often use this description when referring to students who we may not share interests with, or students who show little interest in the subject matter we teach. But are they really "hard to reach" or have we simply been trying the wrong tactics?

Let me tell you about a couple of these students who had been labeled as "hard to reach" who were put into my class. Yes, they were put there. They did not sign up for it. They had been kicked out numerous other classes and mine became the "dumping ground" for troubled students.

That was fine by me because troubled students ended up being stellar students in my class. Typically, after school, I had play practice but there were always a few short weeks in between plays where we didn't have rehearsal. As we waited for rehearsals for the next to begin I would work on my truck after school. Sometimes it was working on the engine, other times it was the sound system, other times it was the suspension. There was always some project to work on. Often times those "hard to reach students" would hang around the building after school which was odd because according to other teachers these students hated school. So one would think that once the bell rang they would be the first ones out of there.

I invited them to help me on some of the projects with my truck as I knew that they enjoyed working on their own vehicles.  How did I know that?...well, that is one of the first steps in reaching "hard to reach" students. I listened.

During our after school projects I taught some of the best lesson of my career. These students proved to be quite intellectual. Our conversations were deep, philosophical, and inspiring. I learned that these students were no "hard to reach" at all. They just weren't being challenged or listened to.

I still keep in touch with these students. They still continue to challenge my way of thinking and keep me learning and listening. I am grateful for those conversations and those projects. Not only were we building a truck, we were building strong relationships and building trust.

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