What motives a student to achieve in school?
Short answer - I don't know. The difference between the student who receives straight A's and the student who would rather look out the window than listen to a word the teacher is saying is a multifactorial problem. I don't know what motivates a young student and what may work with one may not work with another. There may be some sort of common rules or techniques that may be useful but there are unknown to me.
During the past few months the question of what motivates us has weighed heavily on my mind. I have done some research into this area and I wanted to share a few of the things that I have learned that I think are important.
The first is one that I have learned from a man named John Allison. Mr. Allison was the former CEO of BB&T Bank. In a lecture that he gave to students at the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia, Mr. Allison spoke on the topic of Leadership and Values. Video here. (Poor Quality, but worth an hour of your time). The key portion that I took away in this context is Mr. Allison's advice to managers, especially younger ones. I think that the message is applicable to teachers, especially young ones.
You are not responsible for the choices that your students make. You are responsible for teaching them to take responsibility for themselves.
Getting a student to recognize what's in their own self-interest is not any easy task. There is always uncertainty associated with any one path versus another. Doors open through education, work experience and extra cirriculars when you are young. There is less uncertainty when a student does not take ownership over their choices. Doors close through making bad decisions. These are sometimes referred to as temptations. Mr. Allison put it another way - "Temptations are reasons to fail."
More to come on this topic in future posts.
For more resources on John Allison a google search should provide enough to get started.
Also, feel free to check out this Econtalk episode featuring John Allison on Strategy, Profits, and Self-Interest.