@ Renee Peoples: Your thougths about increasing rigor to motivate the unmotivated got me to thinking. I think I will be conscious of that when I come back to the classroom after being home with my children for the last decade. I also wonder if not being able to let kids fail in the classroom has enabled alot of students. Some choose to take the easiest path and let others do their work in the homework center if they don't complete it....or they wait for the easier retest, and so on. Why would kids study or meet a deadline..if there really isn't one? I think we have become soft and have put the responsibility on the teachers instead of the students. We need to hold each student accountable.
Sarah, great comment and refelction. I agree that the tendency to not want students to fail leads us to be "soft." And I do think that children, in general, are being allowed more and more to fall behind the mark because we give them more and more chances to succeed. Where, if they worked just a bit harder, they would have succeeded in the first place! And I think, in the long run, what we are teaching them is that they can do less and get the same result and - more importantly, that they aren't quite good enough and so people will give in to me. Not a good sense of identify to place on them. Thanks for your thoughts. They have helped me too.
You have kept me thinking as this is a serious and very complex issue all educators face. There are many facets and causes to lack of motivation but regardless of cause, I think an important component to the solution is having realistic but high expectations for EVERY child, and not giving up or lowering expectations by dumbing it up. Not every child is capable of learning at high levels, but they can still be successful. Part of it is knowing the students, how each student learns best (again, complicated and not easy) and recognizing each person's strengths. Drawing on strengths contributes to a class of students operating as a community--everyone offers something to the whole.
Sounds idyllic but I do remember having several classes where that happened and it was magical. It didn't mean that every child was a star, but they were part of something bigger and felt others were counting on them to do their share. There were little things that helped build that tight community, including group rewards for group effort, recognition for helping others, using students as "experts" to help others, and yes...group penalties for not settling down. I explained that what we did was important and that if they wasted time, then that time had to be made up for us to get the work done. They self-regulated behavior, because if they talked a lot and didn't settle down as we transitioned among topics, I merely looked at the clock. For every wasted minute, we used two minutes of recess (probably a thing of the past in many schools these days) to make up the work. "She's timing" was the call and everyone was on task and ready to work. I did my part to try and plan learning activities that were engaging and in line with student interests as well as curricular demands. Not everything is fun but it can still be interesting.
Guess that's part of why I'm so pumped about Wonderopolis.org. It's a great way to integrate learning across disciplines, keep students engaged and interested, promote learning around expository text, and it is appropriate for very young children through adults. Not every topic is of high interest to each student, but there is a nugget of something there for everyone. I like how it encourages students to keep wondering and to explore further on their own. It can be a great way to kick off the day together or used independently and discussed later. Students can be assigned specific tasks or it can serve as a great school - home connection for exploring with families or engaging with others in the "Try it out" section.
Enough preaching...........but you and Katherine have kept me thinking. This is one of those thought-provoking critical questions that teachers and parents can and should discuss often. Thank you.
Donna, I agree with your thoughts about setting high standards and that sometimes it brings about quite a magical result. I was 43 when I did my high school teacher's field work assignments. I will never forget how my conviction that every student needs to feel he can reach for the top, get as high as he can, and be proud of his work brought out such wonderful results. I was student teaching business classes in a high school school where nearly every class I had contained the same students. They were labeled "underachievers" and they acted the part they were cast in. "I can't do that." "I have no idea." "What are you kidding?" Those were the answers that they were used to giving teachers. I only had them for a semester; so, I figured I'd better work fast to turn that around. Well, I decided to build a community - bargain for the give and take we would need in order to learn. In first period, some of the students had just come out of the cow barns and finished miliking before they got on the bus. Others had jobs that kept them out late. I told them what I expected to accomplish in the class and asked, "What do you want to happen in for me to get that to happen?" They wanted donuts each Friday and - they were willing to bring them in! And they wanted the last five minutes of each class to be time to talk. Okay, I could do that. The deal was, though, that they had to work for me. I got snide remarks from teachers and giggles from my peers (except for one who cheered me on!). It worked. We played games to learn information before a test (they orginally had said, "No, way!") and helped eacher in study groups during class. When the final test came, they were pumped! This group's success rate with written tests was about 40%. Every student, with the exception of one, passed. The one who didn't was one point shy. I talked with him (and my heart bled, as I wished I could have given him the extra point for neat handwriting or something) and he said, Mrs. Collmer, I am proud that I got a 64. I have never done that before." So, you see, the extra point just because I was a nice teacher would have spoiled his pride in what he COULD do, versus getting away with something. And, the best part: this behavior and pride spilled over into the other classes I had them in - without any bargaining:) Yes, I am beaming with pride. But, I will absolutely forever hold those dear students close to my heart because of the pride they had in themselves. Thanks Donna and Sarah for letting me share this. I hope that we can all return to helping others build successes through their self pride. Have a great day all!
I absolutely LOVE reading your story of success. You listened to your students, and although others thought it ridiculous, you respectfully responded to their simple requests and cut a bargain that paid off for everyone. I bet there are many teachers with similar stories, but this is very special. Love that they gained self-respect, made achievement gains, and strengthened their sense of connection with one another AND with you. Success like that is a sweet memory to treasure, and I am betting they remember it well.
Taken from eSchool News article, Five ways to motivate students, by Meris Stansbury (July 13, 2012).
Sarah, your comment on retests is making me think of a good friend's experience this past year in his first year teaching. Over half of his students failed their first test of the school year, and they could have cared less. They figured they'd just make up for it on the retest (apparently this is what they were used to from other teachers), but little did they know Mr. J doesn't offer retests. He believes (as do I) that students should study and succeed the first time, not mess around and figure they'll just put if of until later. As the school year went on, test scores improved, the students quit griping about retests, and Mr. J continued to not give himself more work by grading two tests instead of one!
I agree with Mr. J's way of thinking when it comes 'extra credit'. If a student doesn't do their work in the first place, why give them even more work? And why should it be my responsibility to do even more grading after I've already fininhed grading an assingment they chose not to do?
Good luck being back in the classroom!
Bensmama! I just adore your friend's perpective! Let's get back to the era when we expected students to do their best instead of doing our best to let them get by! Children respond to this because they know it's all a sham when we let them get away without working to their highest potential...and it's up to us to show them how high they can reach:) I love this exchange of ideas:))) Thanks!
Amy Gordon in another post shared an article about motivating students and the relationship of motivation to academic achievement--
On June 7, 2012, eSchoolNews shared a summary of a new study that reviewed six different papers to find out what works and what doesn't in terms of motivating students. The article simply titled "How can schools better motivate students?", claims that student motivation is crucial to academic progress and improvement. How important is student motivation?
I have been reading all the suggestions and truly touching stories of individual success adn been thinking of how to contribute, since I have many questions. One way I have found success, is having a classroom lunch. Originally I was going to have lunch detention, but did not like the negative vibe, so I called it a working lunch. I would say I'm working through my lunch, so you need to be working. I had many students come when they needed to make-up work or had questions etc., but I also had 5 boys come every lunch and start their hw, play a math game, read trivia, socialize with each other, and me. I am planning on continuing and expanding this connection.
I have used the idea of a working lunch for teachers who have been involved in technology training workshops, but I have never considered modifying the idea to use with students. I think you have a creative approach to motivating your students, helping them with their work, giving them time for math exploration, etc. Thanks for adding a fresh approach to this discussion.
First I want to say that I aadmire your devotion to helping your students and making yourself available to them..
I taught computer classes for several years and the students loved to come to the lab during lunch to work on assignments, to play educational games, and to hang with their friends.
I took shorter lunches, then working lunches gulping down lunch in a room where I didn't allow students to bring food or drink, and then I was told the program was such a success that I had to keep the room open for students during lunch, effectively losing my lunch period.
There are times when you need a break from your classroom and you deserve it. Colorado had a law that established a 20 minute lunch for all teachers. In our eagerness to help our students, satisfy our administration, and perhaps do what we feel is good for everyone else, please remember to take care of your own health, both mental and physical.
Chat with a colleague in the lounge, take a short walk around the track, eat your lunch outside. You are important too.
Thanks Jane. I always ate my lunch and sat behind my desk. I have outside morning duty, so I walk around the school yard every morning and chat with colleagues. At first I did not like giving up my peacful lunch, but then I really got to talk with students 1-1 without them missing another class and it did decrease the number of failures. One problem with having a 7th grade lunch my eighth graders could not take advantage of the lunch program.
So many teachers demand respect when in reality one must earn respect. When a child is treated with respect, they in turn usually give respect. We must not judge our students because they are the way they are, instead take the opportunity to help mold them into the wonderful creatures they were intended to be. We must embrace their uniqueness and they will be motivated to learn and please us.
I have had many kids like this in my 20 years of teaching. Getting to know your students is the best way to increase motivation academically and socially. I have had the best success when I have had the same class for at least two years. This is easier in the Elementary years. When I loop with my kids, I instantly have that bonded connection in the second year. Unfortunately, when I don't loop with my students I lose the connection at the end of the year. It seems unfortunate that the students and the teacher have worked so hard in the year, then both have to try and reconnect with new individuals the next school year. I'm sure this is most difficult with students who are higher "at-risk" kids. Good question!