How To Reach the Unreachable?


Every day, the same students sit in the back of your classroom.

Labeled for reuse from Wikimedia

Labeled for reuse from Wikimedia

Some of these students are distant, passive, and indifferent, if they even show up to class at all. These students lack a sense of belonging in school despite your efforts for classroom inclusion. When they partake in the classroom activities, they are rebellious and work against the classroom culture you have diligently worked to create.

Other students in the back row are equally unmotivated but they show different characteristics than the first group of students. They are overcommitted with school activities and pursue their education like they are entitled to the rewards of a good student, although they are just as unmotivated as the former students described. These students are typically the class clowns and/or they victimize themselves and become a sort of high school martyr.

Can teachers reach these “unreachable” students?

Both groups of students get labeled as “at-risk.” They are the students that tank the national drop-out rate because they feel frustrated and helpless in school. Often times, these students say that school had no relevancy to their lives; school was pointless so they dropped out. Besides, what does geometry or Shakespeare have to do with real life?

What is a teacher to do?

All teachers must be prepared to face these students because they exist in classrooms everywhere. Both groups of students are real, live human beings that should never be thrown to the side or written off as unreachable.

Educators have the awesome opportunity to develop positive, encouraging, and professional relationships with these very students. As a teacher, you can be the reason why students decide to stay in school and graduate. I want these students (and all students) to find new life in my classroom and see why learning English is important, even for seventeen-year-old juniors.

Relationships are king and in a few months when I have students in front of me, I will use the opportunity to impact students, helping them to find their footing and offer perspective. I will model appropriate behavior and work to build respectful relationships with all of my students, not just the students who have bought into their education.

I don’t wish to underestimate the task I just outlined. Building relationships with students will be difficult. I will be challenged again and again even when I’m a veteran teacher.

There are many ideas for teachers to build relationships with students. Some of these include:

  • Attending school events
  • Using note cards in class for students to share something about them
  • Being present in the hallway and in the lunchroom
  • Setting aside classroom time for small conversations

Ultimately, teachers have the incredible opportunity to build relationships with students. How will you reach the unreachable students in your classroom?

You have the power to change the culture in your classroom, in your school.

Will you?