As a teacher, your job is to make sure that your students learn. This is easier said than done since every student is unique, and a large class size may not always allow you to give each of them personal attention. Some students are self-starters and naturally do well academically. But what about those who do not seem to have a desire to learn?

One of the teacher’s biggest challenges is how to motivate his students, especially those who do not seem responsive in class or those who do not seem to value the lessons taught. There are also some students with disruptive home lives that make it impossible for them to focus in school.

Here are some ideas on how you can motivate your underachieving student.

* Remember that every child wants to learn, no matter what. Your job as an educator is to make sure that your students learn from you. It is up to you to make the lessons come alive. When you get frustrated, take a deep breath. There is potential in every child, and it’s your job as a teacher to help bring that out.

* Motivate with praise. You’ll be surprised at how much people crave attention and praise, so give it to students who deserve it. The best way to encourage someone is to praise him and not put him down. Always acknowledge the effort students put into exemplary work.

* Set a goal. Although high test scores are great, why not motivate students to learn by setting tangible rewards for them? Preschoolers, for example, are happy enough to receive star stickers for their work. If you have older students, come up with another way to motivate them. Think out of the box.

* Tap the competitive spirit. Group your class into teams and make them compete against each other. Getting ahead of your peers is an excellent motivator. Be the one to group the teams so that no one is left behind. For example, you can make a trivia contest out of a history lesson; whoever wins gets extra points of credit or enjoys early dismissal. Knowing that your team is counting on you is a good motivator; it’s not just one person on the line but a whole group.

* Make it relevant. Who cares what happened 300 years ago to some dead guy? How does knowing that the hypotenuse is the longest side of a right angled triangle relevant in everyday life? Philosophy, History, Geometry, Chemistry, and Math seem so abstract unless it’s brought down to a level that students can understand and relate to. In a Science class, for example, you can explain how cell phones work or how e-mail is made possible. Show how history affects music, fashion, and pop culture. Find things that are current and work your way back to show the link and connection to what you are teaching.

* Avoid excessive or exaggerated praise. Acknowledging a job well done is good. However, be careful of giving praise for every little effort because you risk making your students too dependent on outside affirmation. Ultimately, the urge to learn must spring from feelings of self-fulfillment.

Show your students that you care; let them know that you are there to help them learn. If it becomes too difficult, you may need to call the attention of their parents. But don’t give up too easy; every student deserves a chance to succeed.