by Emory Thompson
A question I have been asked multiple times over the last 25 years is, “How do I motivate my student to get their work completed?” Now that is a GREAT question and it would seem to be the easiest to answer. You would think this would work, “Explain to them if they do not complete their school work they will never graduate!” There you have it and thanks for taking the time to read this article …..
Boy, oh boy, that is funny, right? Too often when we accept a simple, logical and reasonable answer we expect that the problem is solved. This is far from the truth. If you feel like you are drowning in the sea of unmotivation with your student let me offer a few small ways to help with this idea of motivation.
We want the students to learn and progress forward in a fashion that allows the greatest opportunities in front of them. Now the student will have no concept of this early on because they probably have a fixed mindset that they are good at some things and bad at others. They will inevitably shy away from challenging things so they can maintain a reputation for success and not failure. We can create an environment where we promote a growing mindset that encourages the students to take chances and strive in weak areas. Success is always the greatest of reward no matter who we are. We are built with an innate desire to succeed and be good at something.
How do we foster a growing mindset environment?
It is important that each student individually can see the finish line. We will want some long range (school year) goals to set so we will know in the months to come where we need the student to be. We will also need some short term goals (weekly or monthly) to help point to the achievable long range goal. Lastly, we will need to set daily goals that take the smallest of steps and allow the quick achievable success the student needs on a daily basis.
Motivation will only take place when there is a healthy relationship with you, the teacher or parent, and the student/child. If you want to cultivate and empower the student with a growing mindset you will have to encourage each step of the way. No one needs to be reminded of failure and students are especially vulnerable to this.
You can approach failure in different ways. Here is one way, “Well I have told you over and over if you do not study you will not succeed and now you have proved me right.” Can you see the irony in this statement? The teacher/parent has reminded the student that, because they warned them, and now the student has failed, the teacher is now right and thus successful. So not only have we reminded the student they failed, we have also reminded them we have succeeded in predicting their failure!
Now let’s look at the approach that promotes a growing mindset. “Failure is one of our greatest teachers. It shows us the areas we need to improve on and the places we can find the greatest success opportunity.” What have we done here? First we acknowledged that failure is not the end of the world. Secondly, we have now created a motivation area for success. How great is it to succeed in a place you once failed? This is the foundation for some of the greatest success stories of the world.
ESTABLISH LEARNING COMMUNITY
Students need a classroom/home environment where they feel safe to take the risk of trying something new. Create a space where each student learns to encourage growth in each other. Give praise for the effort even if the success is not present at first.
One way to do this as the teacher/parent it to take on a new task. Set a goal for yourself and let your students see you strive to achieve that goal. At some point you will have to confess or allow them to see the struggle and even failure on your part. When this happens you will become an equal partner in failure and success within the community. Have you ever watched a work-out video and noticed the one person coaching never puts in the same amount of reps or effort as they expect of you? I guess it is because they have all the knowledge :). The point is they are, in a sense, separated from the community of exercisers because you never witness them fail. In your learning community allow each individual (students and teachers) to fail and succeed in their own way.
If your classroom environment is engaging and pushing for new opportunities, students will thrive in the growing mindset and find their weaknesses can become strengths.
Success is the key to motivation. Create multiple opportunities for your students to succeed and you will see the level of motivation increase