I wanted to make sure that the students felt warm and welcome, so for most of the interviews started off with some friendly banter. I asked the students how their winter break was, where they went, things of that nature. Afterwards, I began to discuss the specifics of their performance in my class. All of the students were quick to admit their poor performances, and for the most part were apologetic. Others simply looked down, avoiding eye contact at all costs. Whatever the case was, the final goal for each of these students was to develop a concrete plan to raise their grade to the passing level by the end of the semester, which was approaching in three weeks.
With the first student, I was finding it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas to help them better perform in my class. Ideas that were consistent with most of the students included moving seats in class and calling out students by name if they were not on task. They claimed that if I were to increase these strategies, they would be less likely to exhibit problem behaviors and would subsequently be able to complete their assignments. Other students felt that they would be assisted if they were to maintain a weekly planner or organize their papers in a binder. I still was not convinced, and the students could not come up with anything much beyond that.
I reflected during the first interview about a previous teacher I worked with and his strategy for helping motivate students to do well in school. He once offered a pizza party to a student if he was able to show up to school on time for five days in a row. He has struggled getting to school in the past due to parental problems at home, and this teacher felt that this would help motivate him to overcome those struggles. Obviously, the situation I was trying to fix with these students was different, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask. When I made this offer to the first student, his eyes lit up. "Really?" he said surprised, "You would do that for us?" I was enthusiastic as well. After all, if all it took was some pizza to get these kids to improve their performance in my class, how could I resist?
Some of the other students were not as enthusiastic about the prospective pizza party, but accepted the terms nonetheless. All except for one student. One out of the eight students I sat down with did not believe that a pizza party would motivate him to improve his performance in my class. "If I want to improve," he began, "it needs to be something I am motivated to do, and I am. I want to pass this class." This student displayed a clear internal desire to improve his performance. So we will see which strategy wins out.
Some students I felt were very involved in the interview process. They were active engaging me in discourse about trying to correct their in-class behavior and coming up with strategies of their own. Other students were not as enthusiastic. They largely left it up to me to decide how to improve their performance and had little input of their own. These students often looked disheartened and disengaged from my desire to help them, or at least that's how I felt.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be observing their behavior to look for any signs of improvement. Of course, the ultimate meter of success will be their final grades, which I will compare to their performances and interview input.