The difficult student pep-talk can be like a solo conversation. They tend to shut down, and even the most well intended teachers don’t seem to be able to soften the blows of the student’s backslide.
Concerned educators often try to give the pep-talk in hopes that they will see a glimmer of recognition, some understanding or a spark of wanting to try just a bit harder. They just want to get through to these students.
It’s a time-consuming, mentally taxing exercise. But teachers keep at it, week after week, because he’s been led to believe that with the right words and inspiration, he can transform his most challenging students.
It makes sense. It feels right. It should work.
But pulling difficult students aside for pep-talks, particularly in response to recent misbehavior, will not only delay real and lasting improvement, but it can cause behavior to worsen.
They have heard it all.
Most difficult students have a history of misbehavior reaching as far back as preschool. Add the near-constant flow of pep-talks over the years, and you have a group of students who have heard it all. Thus, they’ve become jaded and adept at tuning you out or telling you what you want to hear. For them, these moments are more embarrassing than they are uplifting.
Pep-talks lack meaning.
Unless a student has taken an improving step of her (or his) own accord, then little of what you say will make a difference—because it lacks basis, proof, or truth and therefore any meaning. It’s a sand castle at low tide. A brief acknowledgement based on real improvement, on the other hand, can have remarkable power.
You give up your leverage.
When difficult students see how desperate you are for them to improve, you hand over much of the leverage you need to help them change their ways. Because they know how much it means to you, because they can see it in your eyes and smell it on you from a million miles away, they know they have you over a barrel and can ruin your day whenever they wish.