Honestly, I’ve been rather fortunate. Almost all my students in my GEN Y GED class (basically always in my ESOL class) participate in class without question. And if they’re reticent at the beginning, I usually win them over quickly or wear them down with constant “highly-suggested volunteering”. But what do you do with a student who just refuses to participate? Not just refusing to participate in classroom discussion but refusing to do anything at all. Not even work on his or her own. Just sitting there for 2 and a half hours, starring into space. (Could you think of anything more boring?) That’s really frustrating. Most of the time the student doesn’t even acknowledge you when you try to find out what’s wrong and stares out in the distance as if you’re not even speaking to them. Now, I talk to myself as much as the next person (you all talk to yourself, right?) but in the classroom, that can get to be quite infuriating.
You start wondering, “Why are you coming?” Especially when he or she hasn’t missed a single day of class since he or she started. Questions run through your mind–Does he or she not understand the lesson? Problems at home? Is he or she court ordered? Does he or she need a letter to get benefits from Job and Family Services? These things pop in your head when you’re trying to talk to someone who won’t even look you in your face.
However, it’s that one day when they finally start participating, even if they participate for only one day and then the big evil attitude comes right back, or when you make a joke and class and you see them suppress a laugh, that reminds you the reason you’re teaching and gives you added incentive to help the person. At least that keeps me going. There’s a lot of frustration but the little moments and the possibility for change continually encourage me. To be honest, I don’t think I can ever fully believe I can’t make an impact on every student who comes to my class. I hope I never get to the point where I can give up on somebody.