Bringing Great Change to Your Classroom: Part 3aI must start off by making a confession. I am nearing the end of my masters program and I am lacking in motivation. I know none of you reading this has ever experienced lack of motivation, but for me it's been bad. Even now, I'm typing this blog when I could be working on a paper due in a few days.
So, if I am suffering from a lack of motivation in my masters class, then how many students are walking through our classroom doors, suffering from a lack of motivation. That is next piece in this series about bringing great change to your classroom. In case you are new to this series, here is part 1 and part 2.
Since you've read those, you know that I believe that great change in the classroom starts with the teacher changing. Then the teacher must get specific with the change he or she wants to see in the classroom. Remember the example I mentioned in part 2 of this series? There is a big difference between "eating healthy" and "having a nutrition plan".
However, being specific is not enough. If it were, then everyone would follow Dave Ramsey's advice and be debt free. Unfortunately, if we are not truly motivated to accomplish this, then eventually our emotions will win and take us in a different direction.
I'd love to tell you that I'd solve this problem for my students. I haven't and this blog isn't meant to give you final answers, but lets have a conversation about motivation. We'll continue to look at the different players that make up the classroom.
I'm going to start with the teacher and with what motivates us. Why do we do this? I can not tell you the number of people who have asked me that question. Actually, when they ask the question, it sounds more like this, "I don't see why you teach. You've got to put up with kids, parents, and you don't get paid anything. I couldn't do it." So, why do you teach?
I can only answer for myself. I love kids. It's the same answer I gave in my interview for admittance into the student teaching program when I was in college. It's just that simple. I am in this for children. I've never met a good teacher who was in it for any other reason. If you are in it just because you love your subject, your parents were teachers, you want to coach sports, or want to have summers off, then you either won't last or you won't be happy. I encourage you to find a different job because life is too short not to be happy!
I recently read that Sir Ken Robinson said that we are here to teach the student and not the subject. I'm not here to make sure kids pass some test, get good grades, or even graduate. I do this so the students I work with will fall in love with learning and become the person they want to be.
I have to remind myself of this from time to time when I'm stressed out by all the "other stuff" we have to deal with as educators. Education is in a major transition point globally and sometimes we need to remind ourselves about why we signed up for this career.
Yes, it's time for the million dollar question! How do I motivate my students? My students don't like school, my class, my subject, or me!
Dr. Marzano encourages us to ask four questions from the student's perspective.
- How do I feel?
- Am I interested?
- Is this important?
- Can I do this?
The first two questions deal with students' attention and the last two deal with engagement. Believe it or not, students lack of motivation might have nothing to do with you. They might not feel well, either physically or emotionally. I've seen too many teachers take things too personally and react poorly because of it. We need to learn to respond to students feelings and not react to them. As Dr. Kevin Leman pointed out in his book, Have a New Kid by Friday, the difference between responding and reacting is the difference between a disease responding to treatment or reacting to treatment. Responses lead to solutions and reactions lead to more problems. Remember, your students spend much more time outside of your classroom and the outside world has profound effect on them.
Now, if they aren't interested, that is our fault as teachers. We've got to find out what interest our students and link that with our subjects. I know it's not always easy but it must be done or you will lose their attention to something that does interest them. Case in point, I recently saw some pictures on twitter that a student I know took during a class they were in while the teacher was showing a movie. They wanted to see how many of their classmates they could catch sleeping. It was more interesting than what the teacher was doing.
Next, if a student does not see the importance of it, then they won't be motivated to complete the work. That leads me to ask a couple of questions of my own. Is your homework assignment important? Are grades important? Do students see the importance of what you are doing in your classroom. You want to change your students level of motivation, make everything you do important! Don't give homework just because that is what teachers do. I don't have time to discuss the merit of homework. Here is my opinion in a nutshell. Kids who already have mastered the standard don't need it and those who haven't can't do the homework anyway. Teachers should never, under any circumstances, give homework as punishment! Make the assignments you give in your class important, and not just to you, your grade book, or your principal.
I've just decided that this part is too big to put into one blog. I hope you will continue to join me as we continue this discussion at a later time. In part two of this blog I will be finishing my thoughts on motivating students, the role parents play, and give some tips on how administrators can keep both staff and students motivated from August to May!