As we begin the school year the question on every teacher's mind will most likely be, "What teaching device will I employ to motivate my students?" Many teachers grapple with the challenge of how to devise lessons that students will enjoy. The teachers that can master this approach and engage their students have learned the fine art of teaching. They can tap into a student's hunger to learn and make learning fun.
A teacher's challenge to reach the nirvana of student satisfaction these days is matched up against laptops, video games, cell phones, Instagram, and YouTube, just to name a few. When a boy shuts down his iPad at the end of the summer, he realizes he is going to be shifting gears away from a screen and on to the playground and into the classroom. The shift students make when school ends in late May (that Alice Cooper passionately sang in the song, "Schools Out for Summer") becomes the title track to student freedom. As someone who has spent my entire professional career in schools, the transitions at the beginning and end of the school year can help us learn how to motivate students. Boys are most passionate at these transition moments in the school year. How can we capitalize on the passion and inspire boys to love learning in between the beginning and end of school?
The answer to student motivation comes from within and not from the exterior. Handing out candy or other rewards only motivate so much until the reward grows old and the boy loses interest. Student motivation must grow from within and it can only be activated if they care. If a boy has a goal—and it is truly his personal goal—he will work as hard as he can to succeed. Beyond caring, a boy has to expect that he can succeed at the goal. If he believes he can do it, he will work hard to attain it. Finally, a third and all important variable has to do with the classroom environment. If a boy is in a supportive and encouraging classroom, he will try as best as he can to put forth his best effort because he knows he'll be guided by a trusting teacher.
As teacher, students, and administrators set out on the academic season, it's vital that each participant align their goals with each other. If we want boys to love learning, the goals they set must truly be their own. They can't engage in learning until they ask themselves questions like, "What do you want to achieve this year?" Other personal questions must include thoughts like, "What do you want to improve?" The focus for the boy is centered on his wishes and not other's expectations of him. Once boys tap into these personal questions, it's not about candy, or an allowance, or a trip to the app store. The effects of success for the boy takes root in their motivation to be a better reader or a tenacious problem solver. Once they feel themselves growing and improving, they want to activate this result more often. It's like gold when we can tap into the motivation to excel.
Aligning goals within the walls of Regis is an important process for everyone. Student, teacher, administrator, parent, grandparent, and friends. When we coordinate our efforts to spark motivation in each other, we build community and everyone benefits.
My goal this year is to align my goals with the boys and the faculty so they are more meaningful to them. When others have control over their goals, each group is tasked with finding common ground without compromising dreams and wishes for the future.
Take a moment at the start of this year and ask yourself. What do you want to achieve? What do you want to improve? How will your success this year lead to your future success? The school year is short, let's get started.