Email this pageEmail This Page

Motivating Timmy who never does ANYTHING in school

Date: October 16th, 2014
By: Polly Bath

Watch this video [3:04] for a thought on motivating that kid who never does anything in your class

Polly Bath: I’d like to introduce you to Timmy. Timmy’s my little third grader who doesn’t do a lot of work. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t do a lot of anything, school just is not his gig, if you will, and he’s already told me that he plans on quitting as soon as he’s old enough to do so.

Now, the more difficult part about this is that his parents really don’t do school either. I can’t get them in for meetings. They don’t answer their phone a lot, unless Timmy’s really sick, which he rarely gets sick. As a matter of fact, he’s in school every single day.

I really want to get some motivation from this child. I struggle with it. His parents don’t have a lot of use for school, as I just mentioned, and they look at school as a place for Timmy to go every day and they don’t have to keep him at home.

The law says he has to go to school, so here he is, in my classroom, every day, and he doesn’t want to do anything.

Now, I’m not a big fan of having kids do a lot of paperwork if I can avoid it, but there are times when I’ve got to get something on paper. So like every other teacher, I’m bringing a pile home so I can correct them.

All right. Well, I finished this folder, now it’s time for Timmy’s. OK. Here’s one. Well, apparently Timmy didn’t think this applied to him and he’s not going to do it.

The second one here, he put some decorations on here, but apparently he doesn’t feel that this one applies to him either. Let’s try number three. OK, wait a second, his name is on this one. He’s answered two of the questions. Two out of 15, but two. He even put his own smiley face on the top of the paper.

Now I want to introduce you to something I call “Papers on the Refrigerator.” Most of us don’t have a refrigerator in our classrooms, but we usually have the word wall or the star chart, or the 100 percent papers that go up there and we really don’t want to take the light away from those children who are really working hard.

But think about papers on the refrigerator, a kid like Timmy doesn’t often get papers on the refrigerator, because school is not something that’s really important to his family or him at this very moment. You can actually do something that I refer to as “My Classroom Refrigerator.”

I might decorate an old file cabinet or something with some paper and turn it into a refrigerator, that’s where the papers are going to go, like Timmy’s, because I find that many of the Timmy’s in the world, in our classrooms, have not had a chance to reach mastery.

Mastery, for him, is getting little bits of things at a time that may motivate him to do more. Now Timmy knows that he’s not going to get on the star chart or the 100 percent wall. But it may help me, really big time, if I put Timmy’s paper on the ‚Äúrefrigerator.”