Sonoma County Office of Education

English Learner Services

They’re Telling Us Something

Author: Jenn Guerrero
Published: 08.24.17

They aren’t interested in anything I do- they just don’t care….”
-A classroom teacher reflecting on teaching Designated ELD

All behavior tells us something. When students show us or say they “don’t care” they are telling us something, whether they know it or not. As educators, we have the opportunity to question, probe, and seek deeper understanding in an effort to meet students where they are and help them thrive.

Consider this: adults may find themselves in a job setting that for some reason or another, just doesn’t work for them. Perhaps the environment doesn’t suit them, or the work itself isn’t a good fit. Maybe they don’t connect with their colleagues or feel valued by their boss. Most likely, an adult will have the choice to make a change—transfer to a new division, seek other employment opportunities, further their education in the field, or leave the field entirely for a new line of work. Yet, when students find themselves in a setting that they are struggling to thrive in, they oftentimes don’t have these choices readily at their disposal. As educators, we have a responsibility to then ask ourselves what we are doing—or not doing—to help students, especially English Learners, feel connected, interested, and invested in their learning.

While there are factors in students’ lives that we have no control over, there are many that we do have control over. By asking ourselves the questions below, we are shifting the focus away from what we can’t impact to what we can.

How are we helping students to:

  • understand the long term implications of learning the material?
  • recognize the potential for utilizing the material in their future?
  • believe they can learn the material?

By reframing the behavior through a different lens, we begin to see students in a new light. We see them for who they truly are, what gifts they bring, and their limitless potential.  



Blog: The Language Lens