The most recent edition of #digitaledchat on twitter was on the topic Reluctant Learners. As always, the chat was fast and furious and full of a wealth of great learning. However this was no ordinary twitter chat or #digitaledchat. Something was different in the conversation. This was a very personal chat for teachers and about their reluctant learners.
Many of the tweets recalled how the teacher themselves had either been a reluctant learner (e.g. myself in High School Maths) and how they had seen huge progress in their own students who once given appropriate support and guidance literally not necessarily overnight but eventually.
In my case I hated Maths and was very reluctant in engaging with this subject content until Mr Jim Wilkinson was my Year 11 teacher at Awatapu College way, way back in 1990. I know, I know I look a lot younger than this! What Jim did was first of all focus on making me believe that I could do Maths and further more do it well, very well in fact. From failing Year 10 Maths in 1989 (yes, students used to be failed back then), to passing School Certificate Maths comfortably to getting a 2 (80%) in Year 12 Maths (Sixth Form back then, I recall), I achieved because I first believed and preceding this, Jim believed way before I ever did. Jim was way before this time. He understood that the priority had to be getting to know and understand the person and then the learner.
Jim was such an influence on my education back then and is now in part because he refused point back to accept my reticence, my reluctance to engage in the Maths curriculum. I have to be honest, back then there were times I hated Jim as he was the only teacher who refused to sign me out for sports exchanges until my work was done and to his standard which eventually became mine. Jim's refusal to acceptance my reluctance was also one of the drivers for me to become a teacher, to push students now whether they want to be or not so that they might not like me or themselves now but in the future will respect and like me and themselves when it really matters.
The twitter chat emphasized how critical it is in engaging reluctant learners to not necessarily accept but understand the student concerned outside influences. We may not be able to change these constraints on their reluctance to engage but at the very least, we can modify the learning to best fit their current circumstances.
In reality, engaging reluctant learners is about knowing the person and the learner, what is making them so reluctant and possible short and long-term interventions and solutions. Often all it takes is a little empathy, understanding and empowerment.
After all, thanks to Jim, the above worked and stills works for me. Good luck!
To read the storify for this chat, please click here or on the image above.