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Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

by Peter F. Drucker

The next challenge in the 30 Goals Challenge is to reflect on my best and worst lesson of this week or last semester. I’m really having a hard time with choosing those and that’s not because I had continually average lessons, but because the last week and the last semester have been a bit unique.  A little background might be helpful here.

The last week has really only contained about 2½ days of instruction: we’ve had 2 “cold” days (days with temperatures and wind chills too cold for students to walk to school or the bus stop), 1 snow day, and I personally had 1 pullout day for District meetings.  The days around them were preparing for absences and re-grouping from unplanned days off.  Last semester I semester I started becoming ill and ended up having major surgery. I wasn’t myself for months due to circumstances out of my direct control.  I can say that I had good days and bad days then, but I was really relying on time and procedures and relationships banked. That’s what I would really like to share today.

Relationships.  The best and the worst of a lesson, unit, day, week, year, class are all affected by the relationships established between the teacher and the students.  With positive relationships established, the best and the worst all become just another learning point from which to go from.  If we want our students to learn from the process even when the result fails, we need to not fear modeling that in the classroom. We need to not fear taking a new direction if something isn’t working: formative assessments and reflections are just a couple of tools for this. Having positive relationships with our students allows us to use these moments and turn them into something positive, maybe even the best moments. The best moments, well those are the ones where we can capitalize on that relationship building process.

Relationship building. It takes time, not in length, but effort.  It takes listening and allowing the students to share their voice. It requires respect. This foundation is a necessary building block in order for the curriculum to take shape. This foundation can make the best days and the worst days all just learning days.

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Rewards and punishments, carrots and sticks. We’ve all used these before, to varying degrees. Honestly, I hadn’t yet thought of them as being part of a “Motivation 2.0” world. Actually, I hadn’t thought of motivation as being demonstrated by various stages in history. There are many things that motivate us, I’m still pondering if these three stages are an over-simplification or not. What I can concur with, is that schools are generally in a Motivation 2.0 stage.

We want our students to be using higher order thinking skills. We have Bloom’s Taxonomy (I confess to attaching it to my lesson plan book every year). We have inquiry-based teaching/lessons/methodology. We know we want to reach a different level of thinking and achievement with our students. The question remains – how do we motivate them?

We motivate with grades, class rank, AP test scores and college credit, pizza or ice cream parties, candy, free homework passes, and so much more. We do dangle the carrots. Why do we do this? We were taught that way, those are the examples we’ve seen, the students respond to this and other similar responses. It’s easier to fall back on “tradition” (long-term effectiveness not in question) than to try and harness that biological drive towards motivation. We appreciate those students who have it, are very thankful to have them in class. But, have we tried to foster this – consciously? Or, do we pat ourselves on the back when it does happen?

Interview with Dan Pink: http://www.publicschoolinsights.org/carrots-and-sticks-are-so-last-century-conversation-author-dan-pink

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Performance pay. There’s an idea. Some school districts are using it. It’s another carrot to dangle in front of us to “motivate” us to work harder with our students. It’s a reward before the measurement. Something to work towards. Something new. In difficult economic times, many of us will jump at the hope of an increase in pay (especially when we haven’t had a raise and aren’t getting one).

Measurement. That’s where the questions here lie. How is this determined? What tools are being used? If we use state standardized testing, what about those subjects areas or grade levels that are not tested? One hates to hear the term favoritism, but can that happen? It does in the business world. Would this be used as a punishment as well? It can in the business world as well.

As much as many don’t want to publicly admit, there is a business side to education. The difference is that most educators are not business people. Most of us drawn to education are drawn for reasons besides the pay. Dan Pink said that “educators understand the differences between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation better than almost anyone in American society.” I think there’s truth in that statement. Our reward is different. While we would definitely appreciate a better pay scale (as in many other countries around the world), I think we are the students who had that motivation to learn from the start.

I like something else that Dan Pink said, “Pay people enough so that they are not focused on money, but they are focused on doing their job well.”

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