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Teaching Students Who Don’t Want to Learn

by Joe A. Martin, Jr., Ed.D.

As educators, we know all too well how tough it is to get (or keep) our energy level up to teach students who sometimes don’t want to learn. I’ve even heard students describe teachers as being “a speed bump to a grade.”

It’s true that more and more students are not graduating from high school with the necessary skills to succeed in college (or in life for that matter). It’s also true that more and more students are taking their education for granted and not respecting the process and the institution of learning.

However, these obstacles also offer us an opportunity to make a huge impact on our students.




One of the cardinal rules of teaching is that students will not believe in you until you first believe in them and what you’re teaching them.

As discouraging as some students’ attitudes are, nothing should negate the fact that as educators, we have an opportunity to take a closed mind and replace it with an open one. In essence, that's our number one priority…to get students to think.

Our jobs give us a great opportunity to get students to open their minds and challenge themselves beyond their limits. You’re not only teaching them basic skills, you’re teaching them life skills – skills that will impact them well beyond the classroom. Unfortunately, if you don’t believe this is true, neither will your students.

To get yourself in the right mindset for teaching, skim through the class objectives. Then ask yourself, “How could a student benefit from this material, now and in the future?” Obviously, if you can’t think of a student benefit, then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching the subject.

If your belief in the subject matter isn’t strong, then you will have no conviction in the classroom. And we’ve all heard the saying, “When it comes to children, you can’t kid a kid.” Students can detect an insincere teacher faster than a fake I.D.

However, if you truly believe that the knowledge and information taught in your class will prove to be beneficial to your students, then take your conviction and passion and put it into class discussions, activities, and assignments.

The fact of the matter is, students will only care about your class to the degree to which you do (sometimes less, but never more). If you don’t care about a thing, that “thing” can and will become a burden on you.

Likewise, if you teach that “thing” for the wrong reasons, you will become a burden on your students. And quite frankly, if a teacher doesn’t care, then that teacher shouldn’t teach.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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