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Simple Steps For Getting and Keeping Your Students’ Interest

As I work with schools and staff, the most often asked question is: How do I engage my students? The frequent follow up to the question is an explanation that their students aren’t interested in school or that their students are not motivated to learn. The use of their students somehow implying that those cherubs are different than other teachers’ students.

Given all the tasks teachers are asked to complete it is understandable why some feel this way. That being said, I am here to tell you, all students (and really, all people) want to learn. We, as humans, are innately wired to be curious and want to learn. If you accept this premise, the issue at hand then becomes: My students aren’t motivated and don’t want to learn what I am teaching. Ouch!

My students want to learn but not from me or not what I teach? Most of us will have this epiphany at some point, but it does not help to know we are in good company. I was a secondary school teacher and I hold a deep love of the arts – theatre in particular. I wanted to share that love with my students and I was very surprised when some had unequivocally no interest in what I was offering. It would have been easy for me to decide that my students were not motivated or engaged instead of taking a deep breath and realizing that they were not interested in theatre.

We live in exponential times. What we experienced as students, even just 5 years ago, bears little resemblance to what our kids are now experiencing. Our students are living in one of the most exciting times in human history and their lives are filled with instantaneous feedback, real-world engagements, multi-media presentations, and bleeding edge technology. They live in a world where they can customize almost 100% of their experiences, the exception being their education. To ask students to fully engage in whole-class instruction that may not be meeting their needs in a meaningful way will result in what appears to be apathy. ‘Those kids’ who tune out and otherwise appear unmotivated are still desperate to learn and participate, just maybe not in the way or subject you are teaching.

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