I placed this student, let's call him Helpless McDoNothing, right next to me on the seating chart so I could help him. I knew he would have problems keeping up. Some kids just have a really hard time finding their way around technology, particularly when they don't use it at home. I have someone sit next to him that can help him. I modify his assignments to make them more manageable. I check on him every few minutes to offer encouragement and tips. Nothin' doin.
Helpless McDoNothing spends his classtime cultivating his greatest skill: throwing pity parties for himself.
He stopped and started an assignment no fewer than four times today. Each time, he would open the assignment in MS Word, I'd get him started, he'd do a little, and then quit and close the assignment. Without even saving it. I'd make him start over, then he'd quit. Each time, he'd put his head down, and whine, "I can't do it!" I'd point out to him, "You just did it." He'd just put his head down and whine. He gave up, not because he couldn't do it, but because it was hard to do. Not too hard, just run of the mill hard.
And then he whimpered.
It was the whimper that did it.
Helpless McDoNothing is about to enter the World of No "Can't Do."
From now on, he can't use the phrases "It's too hard," "I can't do it" or anything else that sounds even remotely whiny. He can say, "I need help. How do you do this?" to me or to someone else. He cannot put his head down. He cannot moan or whimper. Every day he'll have an 4" strip of paper placed at his desk. If he whines, procrastinates, or refuses to ask for help, I'll cut an inch off the strip. I won't even have to say anything. At the end of the period, whatever length he has left he can turn in for a Starburst candy. Four inches = four Starbursts. After a while, I can have him go longer and hold out for more.
I know, I know- candy as a reward. I'm not thrilled about it. I actually almost never give out candy in class- maybe 2 or 3 times a year. My prize of choice is praise. After that I usually give free time, or a fun experience, or a pencil or eraser when an object is needed. I got the candy idea from meeting with a Resource teacher and the school psychologist. And it surprised me coming from them. With Helpless McDoNothing, given his problems and circumstances, we agreed that flat-out bribery was still on the table.
It is about time he unlearned his helplessness.