Fighting the frustration of student apathy: How can we make them care? 8 Easy Tips

My classroom is adorned with inspirational quotes that directly relate to the character of people. Students may not read them every day, but it only take them considering it once.

My classroom is adorned with inspirational quotes that directly relate to the character of people. Students may not read them every day, but it only takes them considering it once.

The first bell rings and students trickle in, seemingly unaware of my presence. Fighting the drag of the evident morning malaise, I hop around the classroom seeking to rouse the bunch preparing them for the greatness I’m looking to impart on them.

My inner adolescent is screaming when they refuse to attend.  I’ve shuffled the seating arrangement, changed the style of teaching, adjusted the pace and content in the class in an effort to garner more support and interest.  What now?

Although many of us face this dilemma, it doesn’t correct the conundrum faced:

How do we engage those that don’t seem to care?

How can we, as teachers, make them care more than we do without idol threats of bad grades or parent contact?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Appeal to them on their level: Get to know the “ring leaders” and find a way to connect with him/her – use that information to make it personal
  • Adjust the seating arrangement again – not just where they sit, but how they sit. So much of how a student learns is the environment. Make your learning environment inviting and easy to learn in.
  • Modify or rotate your teaching approach – if you lecture a lot or work in groups all the time, throw a curve ball, take a risk and try something new
  • Try project-based or inquiry style learning – Come up with a way for students to learn and display standards through an assignment that isn’t completely proscribed.  Allow freedom in presentation and personality in approach. Sometimes less specific directions forces them to get creative.
  • Be prepared to scaffold and differentiate with a basic set of guidelines if you do the above, with some framing questions.  Some students have difficulty starting and/or having so much freedom, so plan for that difficulty and put some safeguards in place.
  • Create more opportunities for student leadership within the class. Empowering students to be “in charge” has a tremendous affect on students. Allow students to lead class discussions or groups. Get them involved in the teaching of a lesson.
  • Play to student strengths and give students opportunities to share them with others.   We all like to shine with an audience. One experience can lead to more and start a chain of positive movement in the space.
  • Don’t give up! It isn’t going to change right away.  Tenacity – model it for your students. It’s hard work to change the culture of a room; diligently continue to work for positive change, showing students you won’t give up on them.

How do you guys engage your most seemingly apathetic students?


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Starr, I can only imagine how challenging it is to get students to care in a way that keeps building for them. I meant to tell you about this amazing program that takes place in Britain and the enormous impact it had on getting kids of all ages to get interested in life and the bigger questions. Here is a link to a blog I wrote about it and from there you can get what you need to read more if you choose. They did it on a country-wide basis, but it could be done equally well on a small scale. Just a thought... . I'd love to hear your feedback.


@CarsonCanada Thanks for sharing... I will definitely check out the blog post and get back to you soon.


  1. […] not uncommon. I see it happen to my students all the time. They miss an assignment, then one becomes two and before too long they aren’t handing anything […]