I Refuse to Work!

What happens when a student refuses to do the work?  What would you do?

Yesterday, I had a young lady with a 2×4 chip on her shoulder refuse to comply to class procedures.

The background:

Since day two of school, I give the students 3 words and their definitions.  The students then create a sentence with context clues.  Yesterday, I walked around the room, looking over shoulders and offering encouragement until I came to Angie’s desk.  Once there, I stopped in my tracked and looked at an empty desk, for she was not on task.  Before I could say a word, she said, “Don’t talk to me.”  Of course, being the rebellious person that I am, I had to say something.

I reminded her that she was to be copying the vocabulary words and creating an original sentence.  She felt the need to repeat, “I said don’t talk to me!”

With that, I sent her into the hall.  She was poising the class with her negative attitude.  I have tried to help her, but her anger prevents her from succeeding.  At the start of the last nine weeks, I feel that I have to concentrate on the kids who want to do well.  It is a constant struggle any public school teacher faces.

Well, I told Angie to sit in the hall, and class discussion was a positive experience.  I wrote a discipline referral and the vice principal suspended out of school for two days.  It seems that her attitude and behavior is not confined to my class.

I am left with the feeling that she has a lot of baggage in life and will not succeed.  However, I do have to teach the other 29 students in class.  Am I suppose to cut the losses and give up on her?  How much time and energy do I devote to her?  This is something every educator in the United States struggles with.  If you have the right answer, I am all ears.



Filed under Education, Learning

8 responses to “I Refuse to Work!

  1. How frustrating! Have you spoken to her counselor about this? If it’s a problem all of her teachers and admin are facing, I would call a meeting with her parents, teachers, admin, and a counselor. This will not solve itself. But if she’s not changing and she’s eating up your energy, leave her alone. She may be feeding off of your frustration. Just engage her in discussion that is not school related or connected to her anger. Maybe she just needs someone to see her as a human– not as a student or daughter. Try once everyday, and if she rebuffs you, leave her alone for the rest of the day. If she responds, tread carefully.

    I hope this helps. I never quite know what is going to reach a kid. I had a kid once who scowled at me all of the time. I felt a bit intimidated and awkward, until one day I saw him eating a Twix. I told him how to properly eat a Twix (eat the caramel first, then the cookie), and this lead to a discussion of the proper way to eat candy bars. This ended his scowling. Good luck with your girl!

    • Thanks. I have tried all of your suggestions. As Pat wrote, I need to keep trying. We have hooked her up with a female tutor who is working to help her succeed in the classroom. Angie’s grades have been improving.

      She is feeding off my frustration, and she enjoys having an audience watch her. I will continue to try to connect with her and work with her. And, I will make sure the other kids get their education. I will keep you posted.

  2. I like what alundeurg has said. The thing is that we hear all the time about the kid who “fell through the cracks”. Here is your chance to stop her doing just that. I know that some people are difficult to get through to, but in the end we all, not just teachers, have to try. We all have “baggage”, it simply manifests in many different ways. Perhaps there is something going on at home and you represent whatever that is, especially being male. Perhaps she’s being bullied by boys and again you’re a male.

    Perhaps you could ask the class to set up a caring committee, for the want of a better term, that recognises problems and with your input looks at ways to reach the student and to bring them out of their shell. You could call them “care bears”. :))

    There is a key to everyone’s soul and all we need is to find the key. Maybe you could try to reach her through an act of grace. Let her know that whatever is going on outside the classroom, inside the room there is a safe place.

    I don’t think child services or whatever it is called over there is an answer. They are just people working in a “system” that is too inflexible to really help.

    As a musician I would suggest that if there is a music program in your school that you try to encourage her to get involved. I have found that music really does have charms to soothe the savage breast. Kids involved in a music program develop 15 to 20% better on average than those who aren’t involved.

    Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model of learning styles tells us that there are 3 main types of learning. Maybe she is too right brained for class work, or maybe she needs tactile learning. None of which helps you as a teacher of course because you can’t spend too much time on one student.

    Not being a teacher and not knowing the student I really can’t offer anything more. But I do know this: your blog reveals a caring, concerned, sensitive and intelligent teacher who if maybe simply used his intuition will come to a positive result. Trust your gut as they say.

  3. Robert K.

    I think you taught her a valuable real world lesson. When you bring a personal problem to work, and refuse to work, you face disciplinary action, such as suspension or termination. one of the best pieces of advice I ever received seems to fit here, so I’ll share…
    “when people ask you how your day is going or how you’re doing, they don’t really care, just smile and say something pleasant”
    Sure it seems cruel, but life is kind of like that sometimes, better to be prepared for it than shocked by it.

    on the other side of the coin, maybe she does need a soft touch and a shoulder to cry on, but then the questions become, is it your place, how much is enough, what’s too much, how invested am I willing to become.

    Or you can do both, encourage her and help her grow, but also set clear standards for behavior and performance.

    I’m not a teacher, so I don’t really know, but I can understand how that would be frustrating, luckily I work with adults, when they act like that you can say things like “suck it up” or “if you don’t smile you’ll work the fryer for the rest of the night” =P

  4. This is the very reason I believe that the education system needs to bring in “special ed” teachers that inspire students to become all that they are born to be. Clearly many students, and adults for that matter, simply do not know just how powerful and special they are as humans. We are magnificent beings with more potential than we know. We all have the latent ability to be at the level of an Einstein or a Beethoven in our own arena.
    You may or may not have the time or the training to fulfil that role but even if you did the vast majority don’t. Perhaps a class discussion on “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren or even better “The Master Key System” by Charles F. Hannel could be a help.
    There is an app for iphones that gives you heaps of quality books of this nature for free. It’s called selfclassics. Well worth a look as it is free and you get a heap of great material. Plus of you ever want, I have a huge digital library that I am happy to share with you via either email or google drive. Just let me know and I’ll give you a list. Some are very rare.

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