Try these 10 strategies in your classroom to hook students who would rather be anywhere else.

When I got my first speeding ticket, I knew where to go for advice. Ron Diss, my charismatic colleague at Emory & Henry College, has decorated his office door with a series of nearly identical certificates. Each one declares the successful completion of a driving course. One thing he hasn’t taken from the course, apparently, is the need to drive more slowly.

I asked him what I should do. It’s a no-brainer, he said. Keep the ticket off your record. The judge will likely give you the choice to attend driving school and, in exchange, have the violation dismissed. The insurance company won’t find out about it, so your rates won’t go up.

When the judge made me exactly this offer, it wasn’t really a choice. The only pragmatic move was to attend. I had planned to take my course online.

Never go more than a few minutes without requiring students to respond to a question or say something for themselves.

If I was going to completely waste six hours of my time, I’d just as soon do it in the comfort of my home while nursing a home brew and munching popcorn. I smiled as the judge said I could attend any accredited driver improvement program — and then my smile faded as he finished — but it must be in person. No online courses were permitted. Great, I thought. This really is punishment. I pictured the in-school suspension supervisor at the high school where I taught. He marches slowly up and down the aisles with his arms crossed over his barrel chest, kicking the legs of the desks if students start to nod off. That would be me at driving school, fighting to hold my eyes open to the drone of interminable videos demonstrating how to adjust my mirrors. I was ready to “assume the position.”

The Guardian Angel Driving School operates out of a small airfield terminal in Abingdon, Va. The classroom has several tables, an office off to the side, and (no surprise) a TV cart. I show up with a quart of tea. My plan is to sip it for a steady caffeine high and then point to the near-empty bottle when I need to slip out for a walking break.

Eventually, there are eight of us, split evenly by gender. We go into the office one at a time to submit our paperwork. The rest of us sit quietly, not unlike waiting for a funeral service. The convivial banter spills out from the confines of the office, though. It’s small talk, but this guy is managing to spark some conversation with each of us. I’m glad when it’s my turn. The instructor, Anthony Lambert, asks me something and listens for my answer. He nods reassuringly. He moves easily — collects my money, moves papers, gets his coffee — and without hurrying, but also without waste. He’s easy to like. Maybe it’s because he’s taking time to talk with us, maybe it’s because he seems to find some personal connection to everyone, maybe it’s just because he seems happy to be here. I think that at least if I have to suffer through this, it will be with a likeable teacher.

It’s hard to say when the session started. Anthony drifted into the classroom and extended the one-on-one conversations he started in his office. Before we knew it, 90 minutes had passed, and it was time for a break. The approach to the rest of the day was just as disarming. We did watch two videos, for a total of about 40 minutes. But we started the day at 7:40 a.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m. In that time, Anthony achieved the holy grail that teachers seek. We were thrown together: strangers from all walks of life with marginal interest in his content and a strong desire to be almost anywhere else. And yet, Anthony engaged us.

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