Work Refusers: Strategies That Work

 

teacher classroom management blog

 

Work Refusers:
Remedies That Work

 
 

 

professional development trainer Ruth Herman WellsI bet you know some work refusers. This is professional development trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. and this student is my specialty. I have dozens and dozens of strategies for you.

Our Live Expert Help (click the icon at bottom right on any website page, or call 1.800.545.5736) gets more requests for help with this child than almost any other.

These days, every teacher, every counselor, every social worker, every principal knows students who won't do their work. Some of these work refusers often fail to show up. When they do show up, they often say little, and some may be nearly mute. Some may not even make eye contact, or even look in your direction.

Typically, adults consider two options: pushing the child or backing off. All types of "pushing" can fail, whether rewards, consequences, pressure or logic are used. Backing off can't ever work because if you back off then you're not offering the child an education, or whatever your service is.

The world demands skills from every one of us. No exceptions are made for those who endured abuse or neglect, or have a good reason to seize up. We spend hours thoroughly covering work refusers in our workshop, and can't fit all that comprehensive, step-by-step guidance here, but we'll give you some key tips. Consider coming to our workshop if you want more than just the starters offered here. Learn more about our professional development workshops here. Start reading a few of our best insider tips and tricks for work refusers below.
 


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Strategies to Help Work Refusers

 

It's Pain, Not a Game

Many work refusers face enormous challenges from severe family problems like violence or verbal abuse, to challenges like disabilities and emotional disorders. Work refusal can appear to be a game, but especially with victimized youngsters, it's not a game at all. Getting "stuck" is the only way they know to survive. It can keep them safe at home, and that survival mechanism comes in with them every day.

Strategy:
Few kids will ever say "I was beaten last night so math seems irrelevant. Can I skip the exam?" For distressed kids who don't wish to disclose the nature of their distress, simply allow them to say whether it's a "good work day" or "bad work day." How much work could you do after a beating? Deeply appreciative of accommodations, most of these traumatized students will work very hard on the days that they're able to.


You're a Life Line

You may be the only sane, sober adult some students know– a fact that you may want to keep in mind.

Strategy:
If you're a teacher, then you may live with on-going "testing mania," and other big pressures to produce results at school. It can be hard to remember that humanity is always more important than scores. Forget the humanity, you won't get good scores. Remember the humanity, you'll maximize your humans and their scores.

 

Tiny Increments

Traumatized kids have so little energy left for school: Surviving the beatings, homelessness, or neglect can demand all the child's resources.

Strategy:
Raise expectations in tiny increments. If a student says your goals are too easy, that's just right. Aim for lots of small successes rather than a big failure followed by seizing up and absences.


Understand: Work Refusal Isn't the Real Problem

Look beyond the work refusal to improve it. Work refusal is almost always a symptom of a bigger problem. It is not the cause. It is not the problem. You can't cure problems by focusing on symptoms, which are merely manifestations of the problem. Symptoms like work refusal are not the cause, they are the result. Focus on just the refusal, you will never get improvement. Focus on the refusal AND the causes, you can get improvement.

Strategy: Ask students why they don't work. When many say "I don't know," reply: "If you did know, what would it be?" This off- beat method can yield important answers. Be ready to arrange help for the serious issues students cite.

 

Listen for What You Don't Hear

Consider this true story as a way to understand your potential impact on vulnerable children who refuse to work: "Mom hasn't moved in three days. I'm worried," the first grader said when asked why he wouldn't work. Tragically, upon investigation, the boy's Mom had passed without any adult knowing. Looking back, would you want to have taken the time to ask, or would you be satisfied that you had only focused on getting the work done? Playwright Harold Pinter, who died recently, once said "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear." For shut-down, withdrawn work refusers, it is critical that you listen for "that which we don't hear."

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    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

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How to Help Student Work Refusers Stop Avoiding Class Assignments

 

article on work refusers

 

Wonderful Ways to Help
Wanderers and Work Avoiders:
Stop Students' Work Refusal and Wandering

 
 

 

help with work refusersHello from Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I'm the one penning this article for our Behavior and Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog. We get lots of calls and questions from teachers, counselors, principals, juvenile court staff and social workers. We try to answer them all, and to post the best questions and answers in this blog.

Other than violent teens, no subject generates more queries than student work refusers. No population other than violent teens, seems to be more frustrating to youth professionals than work refusers. Lucky for you, work refusers are a real specialty for us in our books and workshops, so you're in good hands.

Leticia, who is a middle school teacher, is the source of this blog article's  topic. Here is her question:

How do you get kids to stay in their seats and complete their work? These are the ones that need to get paper, or sharpen their pencil, or get a book, or any other excuse to get out of their seat so they don't have to do their work!


Here are some suggestions for Leticia and anyone else who has wandering, work avoidant, or unprepared students.

Leticia, as you well know, kids are not born "instant students." Any behavior that you want a child to do, you have to first teach that behavior to the child. Just like you have to teach math skills before students can do math, you have to teach those basic school skills before you can reasonably expect the students to have those skills.

Schools have elaborate curriculum guidelines for teaching math, but usually no guide at all for teaching the foundation school skills so that students can take advantage of math instruction, and other academic offerings. So, before you can teach math or any other topic, you will need to train your kids to be students. Ideally, in the early elementary school grades, students would learn to be prepared for class. That would eliminate all your problems with students getting up to sharpen pencils or locate paper. Since many elementary schools don't thoroughly provide this preparation, here are some suggestions to provide this training to students of all ages.
 

work refusersWonderful Ways to Get Work Refusers
to Finish Their Work

 

 

First, as we have been discussing, students will seldom perform skills that haven't been taught. Second, students may need "wiggle time" if they get tired of sitting still at their desks. Third, students may want to do anything besides their work, so getting up to do something can look pretty attractive. Let's tackle each of these areas. I will only be able to give you a peek into each area, but I will make suggestions to locate the additional interventions you will need.

 

1. CLASS PREPARATION SKILLS

Teach students how to prepare for class– and motivate them to use these new skills. To teach students how critical preparation is, have them name all the jobs they may wish to do, then identify the consequences of being ill-prepared. For example, what happens if the surgeon forgets her scalpel or the trucker neglected to buy gas. Have students look for other humorous or compelling examples then discuss: "Where are job preparation skills offered to you for free besides school?" Answer: Nowhere.

Once more motivated to learn how to arrive prepared for class, have students identify exactly what they must do to be prepared for your class. Include responses like "sharpen my pencil" and "locate paper." List the help work refusersresponses in a column on the board, then ask the students to identify the best and worst times to perform these tasks. So, "sharpening a pencil during class" might rate as a "worst time," but "before the class starts" might rate as "best." A fun follow-up is to have a poster contest with students competing to best illustrate the concept of "Arrive Prepared or Be Impaired." Put the posters on the wall to serve as an on-going reminder.

This handful of interventions is just the start. Youngsters seldom change long term behavior based on just a few interventions, so be sure to plan to use more of the hundreds of additional strategies that we have. For example, our Turn On the Turned-Off Student book has a wonderful handout called "Rate How Well You Can Learn When You Miss Class." This powerful device is part of an interactive experiment that vividly convinces students that they miss a lot very quickly, even if they only left to sharpen a pencil.
 

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how to help work refusers

 

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2. WIGGLE TIME

Look around at your next staff meeting. Few staff members sit as still as statues. Children make lousy statues. If you require students to "sit still," some will do almost anything to be able to get up and move about, even if just for a minute. Remember how you felt crammed into that airline seat for hours? Students can feel the same way. Especially if you have 90 minute long periods, build in wiggle time. Plus, at the start of the year, have your students establish a "Wiggle Rule." For example, the rule may be that it's not okay to be out of your seat, but it is okay to quietly tap your foot or a pen.

Here's the guideline to offer students: If the wiggling behavior would be okay in the work world, then it is okay in the classroom. You are preparing students for the work world, where sitting still is seldom required. You can even use "Wiggle Time" as an incentive. For example, if class time is not wasted on pencil sharpening and locating paper, then we can enjoy some of the time saved by stopping instruction a few minutes early.

 

3. ANYTHING BUT WORK

You know the feeling. It's been 6 months since you balanced your checkbook, and your taxes are now months overdue. All of us have things we like to do, and things we just rather never do. Some of your students would rather get a root canal than do class work just like you might prefer a root canal to finishing your taxes. A powerful dose of motivation could motivate students who don't finish their workhelp. For example, ask your students to review your local employment classified ads, searching for jobs that reference motivation and follow-through. They will find many ads seeking employees who are "highly motivated," but no ads seeking the "poorly motivated." Discuss that few jobs permit on-going work avoidance, then ask your class members if they will ever need to work.

Poster #7, shown at left, gives you a visual idea of these interventions that can really help work refusers and students who spend their day wandering instead of learning or working. Poster #007 is just $8.

Here are a couple of follow-up activities. Ask your students to name all the jobs that they can do and refuse or delay tasks whenever they want. (There are no jobs like that.)

Here is an additional follow-up intervention for older students only. Discuss the tongue-in-cheek classified ad shown on Poster #7, and relate it back to work acceptance and completion. This ad is quite edgy so tone it down as needed or remake it, however, this edgy version does tend to get noticed by students. Even so, you need to be very thoughtful about which groups of students you use this with. Be sure to restrict the use of this device to older youth who would do well with this hard-edged approach, and who also need exposure to a powerful intervention to understand that work avoidance and poor preparation won't be tolerated in the world of adult employment.

If you prefer to write the text shown on Poster #7, here is one example that can give you a place to start:

Work Avoiders Needed for High Paying Jobs. Must be highly unmotivated and able to avoid completing assignments. Should be able to arrive late and unprepared. Candidates who can leave in the middle of a task are especially encouraged to apply. Late and incomplete applications only please.

 

free teacher resources

 

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    Reprint or Repost This Article
     

    Bring the Breakthrough Strategies Workshop to Your Site

    Help Unmotivated, Failing, Troubled and Unmanageable Students

    teachermissYou have students who struggle. We have solutions for students who struggle…so your job doesn’t have to be so difficult. We have cutting-edge strategies to manage group and classroom management problems like behavior disorders, trauma, disrespect, bullying, emotional issues, withdrawal, substance abuse, tardiness, cyberbullying, delinquency, work refusal, defiance, depression, Asperger’s, ADHD and more.

     

    Schedule the Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Workshop to come to your site. This is the one professional development inservice that produces results, results, results. Call 1.800.545.5736 now. This surprisingly affordable inservice also makes a terrific fund raiser. College credit and 10 professional development clock hours are available. Your staff will finally have the more effective, real-world tools they need to work with today’s challenging, difficult youth.

     

    Contact us now, and begin solving your worst “kid problems” today. Call 1.800.545.5736, or email.

     

    Working with Troubled Students Doesn’t Have to be So Difficult
     


    Behavior & Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog Articles

    Subscribe Unsubscribe/Change Subscription
    Contact Us*  *Not for Unsubscribing
     

    Library of Congress ISSN: 1526-9981 | Youth Change, Your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver
    http://www.youthchg.com | 1.503.982.4220 | 275 N. 3rd St; Woodburn, OR 97071
    © Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved | Permission granted to forward magazine to others.