Student Motivation

Have you ever had a student or a group of students that you could not reach?  You know they are capable of more but, you can not seem to reach their magical motivation button.

I want you to take a little trip back in time to your freshman year in undergrad school.  Do you remember the first week of your first semester.  You were so excited to start this grand journey.  You are feeling pretty good about yourself because you were accepted into this wonderful college.  This college wanted you, so you must be great, right?!!!! Then you go to your first week of classes.  All of the professors are giving you their syllabus which outlines the course work for the semester.  How do you feel when you go back to the dorms that day?

If you are the type of person who pencils in the semester's assignments in your planner on the appropriate week, then this post is something you need to read carefully.  Teachers who are natural planners, can easily prioritize, usually assume those around them were born with this skill.  You couldn't be more wrong!  

Many times we as teachers spend time talking to our students about future events. 

"You need to study hard now so you'll do well on the standardized test we take in the spring."
"You need to do well in this course so you'll be in the advanced class when you go to middle school or high school."
"If you don't get a __%  or you will be in the ___ class next year."
"We have a big project that will count for 45% of this quarter's grade."

How do you think these type of messages sound to a student who has anxiety issues, ADD, ADHD, executive functioning problems or feels insecure?  It is overwhelming to them to say the least.  Now think about your students that are shut down.  Do you ever see any of them fidgeting, frequent restroom breaks (avoidance behavior), or does their backpack look like a tornado struck it?  Is it possible that they are overwhelmed from the messages you are sending?  What is a teacher to do?

First, if the person asking for advice is a colleague I would fall back on the old Dr. Phil saying "How's that working for you?"  Yes, the way you teach may have reached your students in the past, but it may not be reaching all your students this year.  So, it is time for change.

You may need to break down larger assignments into bite size pieces.  I would suggest following my daughter's 6th grade teacher's method.  Her Core teacher had check in days for their large projects.  She broke down the large assignment into bite size pieces.  If her students stayed on task and on schedule, they would have no trouble completing the large project.  She kept emphasizing that this was entirely doable and that she knew all of them could do it.  The positive message is also important, too!  Although her Core teacher did explain the entire project when she introduced it, she spent a considerable amount of time showing how it was broken into smart parts.  She told them to focus on the part that was due first.  Then when that part was done, focus on the next part that was due.   Sixth grade year is a year of anxiety for students.  Since students heard the message from their teacher that she believed in them plus she provided  structure, her students were successful.  It was a great year for my daughter!

If the person asking for advice is a parent . . . . . 

So what do you do if you have a child who gets overwhelmed?  You can try to break down the message into bite size pieces.  Write down what is due on planner, color code it, or find some system that will work for him or her.  Although we would love to have teachers who match our child's teaching style and motivational style, this is not a realistic expectation.  Your child will not always have a boss some day that is a perfect fit either.  Now is the time to learn coping skills.  Although your child may not be working at their potential while they are learning these new skills, these life skills will serve him or her well in the work force some day.


Ebony said...

This is so helpful. I was that teacher you were talking about in the beginning of this article. Notice I said was as I turn over a new leaf.

Ems72314 said...

Great advice for teachers, students and parents!

A Peach for the Teach said...

This is such an awesome post! I found you from Autism Classroom News. I'm going to share this with my followers, too. I think you hit the nail on the head. I was a child with ADHD who couldn't plan ahead and became very overwhelmed. My mother and teachers taught me how to break things into bite-sized pieces, and now I'm a great planner. I love that you used Dr. Phil's quote lol! I want to say that to people all the time! Thanks again for such a great post.