Some kids engage at the right amount. Some too much. What about the kids who withdraw? It is my position that, generally, kids who withdraw from interacting in a CI class have a reason to do so.
We all know that kids withdraw in traditional textbook classes from pure boredom. But when things are interesting (and they always are in a properly run CI class), then there is reason to respect the withdrawal of the kids in CI classes as more serious.
If we were to videotape hundreds of CI classes vs. hundreds of worksheet classes, we would see much more varied observable non-verbal authentic engagement in the CI classes than in the traditional classes. One thing is certain in CI classes – kids are listening more than they appear to be.
But what about those who are clearly out of it? It’s probably because they have a reason and it is not our domain to pry into what that reason is. The reason for their withdrawal may go back many years as a part of their own inner zeitgeist of having to be in school. Usually, however, it’s about their home lives.
What should we do with such kids? My opinion is to let them go. Let them be in the safe space of your classroom. Find a way to pass them. Then you will learn something about teaching and trust and patience. If you go to the teacher’s lounge and complain to your colleagues about those quiet withdrawn kids who “aren’t learning anything” then you are the one with the problem.
On the other hand, if you coax these kids along with infinite patience without forcing them to participate, then you are making the right decision. Coax them along in the manner of the shamans. Invite them back to life. Gently encourage their movement into the class process. Over many months of kind patience and compassion, you will see something.
You may object that you need grades. You need to get grades in the book.
Oh really? You need grades from a child who is not ready to give them to you? You want something you can’t have? Well then grow up and get creative.
What I do is tell them point blank early on is that I will probably have to fail them for the first 9-weeks but I will let the quizzes slide if they can just give me something, anything, to grade on the In-Class Communication Rubric that will keep them above water.
I tell them that I can give them a passing grade on the rubric if they can just provide me with a minimum of positive observable non-verbal attention in class. This will get their attention.
Basically, this is the “fake it till you make it” approach and it works wonders as a preliminary coaxing device. It opens the door to them without pushing them through. Most kids, I have found, take it. They force some little bit of light into their eyes in class. This may seem small to us, but think of the effort on their part.
For the first nine weeks a D instead of an F saves me the hassle of having to contact their parents and many times it saves the kid’s grade, which then saves the kid from being lost to your program of study. Indeed, by the last nine weeks such kids are at least at a C, and some have become class leaders. This positive outcome happened because I didn’t steamroll them in the first month but rather invited them and then waited.
There are few teachers who wait for kids. Most want the changed behavior now, or by the test date anyway. Let’s do it the other way. The research supports such a stance with kids who are hurting.
The loud and rude kids is the subject of another inquiry. Just don’t consider withdrawal and aggression as the same thing in your CI classroom. The verbally rude kids represent a more serious topic and they won’t be addressed in this article. They need much more than we put on the shy and withdrawn students.
So advice on the kids who withdraw is to let them go. Properly done CI has the particular characteristic of making even the most withdrawn kids want to know what is going to happen. But if you push them to listen, expect nothing.
Invite them. They will gradually show up as human beings in your class and at the end of the year you will be their favorite teacher – to your huge surprise. That’s how it works. It’s called compassion.