It’s the end of another hectic school year in which the challenges have been many and varied.
It’s also that end of the year when you tend to take stock of all that you’ve done and tried to achieve. For the most part there are ticks in lots of boxes ….. but ….. well ….. I keep mulling over that very big one ….. the one I feel I’m yet to truly conquer:
How to better motivate students!”
It really is a conundrum that I can’t fathom. And I know I’m not the only one pondering this issue. I hear it all around me. And it’s not just in schools. Chatting with my cousin a few days ago, we found ourselves embroiled in a heated discussion about this very topic.
Teaching in a university, he told me that he and his team regularly offer a range of interesting and exciting events. Students sign up, but then the crunch comes when only a very small percentage of students actually turn up for the event. For those pouring their heart and soul into preparation of the event, this can be totally deflating.
For me who works predominantly with high school students, the let down comes in different ways. Sometimes I can be talking to a group of students who are politely attending, but it’s clear that their hearts are just not in it. So often, I get the feeling that my students sit in class just because they feel that is what is expected of them. They look and sound passive though. Their responses are bland. They don’t get excited. Passion is clearly not there.
What am I doing wrong, I think to myself. Why can’t I get them to be as excited as I am about a topic? Where is the seat of their enthusiasm? How can I motivate them to grab the world and explore it? Is it their lack of experience? Is it lack of opportunity? Perhaps it’s an age gap – I’m over the hill and they are young and free! Or am I just plain boring?!
Whatever it is, I have to intervene! I have to show these students that there is a joy to be experienced in learning, discovering and exploring. I have to help them ‘connect’. I have to find the trigger that inspires them ….. that ignites in them a passion for learning. Somehow I have to help them see the light!
So what is it that can motivate students in our schools?
- Involvement: Instead of sitting back and having the course of lessons planned solely by the teacher, students need to get involved in planning the course. Taking on a responsibility for what and how they learn may make it more meaningful for them.
- Expectation: Students need to know what teachers expect of them in the class. Knowing that they are required to be active learners rather than passive learners is a skill that needs to be integrated into the daily plan.
- Enthusiam: Spreading an infectious enthusiasm for learning is an essential role of the teacher. Enthusiam is contagious. Let it spread like wildfire in the classroom!
- Praise: Praise for involvement, participation, work well done is so valuable. Give praise liberally and just watch the enthusiasm and committment of students rise.
- Share: I often watch the faces of students as I share relevant anecodotes about points being made. By sharing the unexpected story, a certain colour is given to its content. Watch the reaction of students. Pick up on their responses. Don’t hesitate spending valuable class time on the incidental. In the long run this will pay off.
- Opportunities: By providing, regularly and often, a wide range of learning opportunities, students will have a constant stream of opportunities in which to get involved. Word will spread. Attendance will increase.
- Role model: Students get excited by listening to their peers or students who have just graduated school. Invite role models into the school to inspire and motivate them. Look around for the successful role models that are in the community: sports stars, motivational speakers, TV personalities. Have them share their passion with students.
- Caring: Being valued is important to us all. Students need to know that they are valued. A brief personal chat is affirming. A short interchange affirms a sense of self worth. Without a doubt this enriches the experience of school.
Yes – this is all food for thought. No doubt there are many more ideas out there. Share them with me!
I’m looking forward to taking a few weeks off now to recharge the batteries and get away from it all. No doubt though, I will ponder issues such as this while I’m away from my desk.