I learned a valuable lesson this week: sometimes it’s best not to constantly fight a student to do his/her work, but rather just listen. Case in point, is a student in my computer class. His attendance is atrocious, missing more than 60% of class. When he arrives he does nothing. He is polite and when given direction he’ll do some work, but the second you walk away it’s over. He knows the game. His grade is, as you can gather, a F. Yet, I don’t want to give up on him, especially because he has moments when I see his intellect shine.

I decided to take a new approach – just shut up and listen. I asked the student why he won’t work and what his plans were. He explained that school bores him and he has never been successful within the traditional school model. He went on to say he is signed up for Job Corps and he will be leaving in a few weeks. He said that he learns best with his hands, and he wants to open his own business at some point. I told him that I understand and that I am glad that he is joining the Job Corp versus just dropping out of high school. I asked him what he wanted to learn from our curriculum to be successful in the Job Corps and eventually open his own business. He said, “Excel.” “Okay, Excel is what you will learn then,” I replied. Being this is computer class, Excel is eventually covered. Therefore, I told him that he can create his own projects with Excel and I will be there to guide him when he needs me. He agreed that this was a good idea. For this entire week, he worked on and learned Excel. He even smiled when I showed him how to drag the formulas and create a chart. My only regret is not having an in-depth conversation with him earlier.