Allen Mendler

Allen N. Mendler, PhD, has worked with children of all ages in general and special education settings. An experienced educator and school psychologist, he has consulted for schools and day and residential centers.
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Meeting the Challenge of Motivating Difficult Students

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Increasing student motivation and dealing with behavior problems has been at or near the top of classroom concerns expressed by educators throughout my 40-plus-year career. As children slowly return to in-person learning, the problem is likely to become more apparent than ever from the effects of the pandemic, but in order to reach successful outcomes we must first examine why some students act like they don’t care. Enthusiasm to explore and learn is palpable through kindergarten and the early school grades, yet little by little the excitement wanes until more than half of all students in grades 5-12 are reportedly either not engaged or actively disengaged in school (Gallup, 2016). An Education Week survey found that only 40 percent of participating teachers and administrators thought that most of their students were highly motivated. The percentage was far less among educators in high-poverty schools (Collier, 2015).

What happens to change the eager kindergartner into a cynical and disengaged teen? Is this downward spiral inevitable? Since it is natural for humans to want to learn and explore—and if school is a place that facilitates learning and exploration—why do many students develop a negative attitude during their school careers, with some getting so disillusioned that they seem not to care at all? Read more