I polled a class today about barriers to student motivation, and after they finished laughing at me about blogging on this topic, students were at no loss to tell me why they are lacking in motivation. One of the things I kept hearing is that students have little say in the direction of their education. The more that teachers can do to put variety and choice into student hands, an increase in motivation will occur.
Think about showing up to a place every day, being told where to go, what to do, how to do it, when to do it – how would you feel? Bored, trapped, unmotivated. This is exactly how many students feel on a day to day basis in school. Of course, schools cannot be made up of every student doing whatever he or she wants whenever, but students should have some say in their education.
Parents can definitely aid in this by encouraging children to pursue their passions. I was saddened a few weeks ago when speaking to another parent. This mother stated that her child did not want to participate in a musical event but she was making the student participate in order to “build a resume for college.” Guess how much motivation the student had on this day? None. How many children are on sports fields or involved in extra-curricular activities not because they want to be there but because the parents want them there. The saddest thing is not only are students being pushed into areas they’re not passionate about but are being denied opportunities to pursue their passions.
This happens in the classroom as well. Now, my students would love to watch movies all day or go outside and play. Clearly this won’t work for English class. I can, however, offer choice at times. I love having students write their own goals for the class at the beginning of the year. My students keep writing portfolios where they determine areas to work on and steps to make their writing better. Or teachers can give choices in curriculum. Would you prefer to read this novel or another specific one? I can give two or three essay topics as opposed to one. Odd or even problems. The smallest effort in giving students choices will directly impact motivation.
Whether a parent or a teacher, the starting point is communication. What are you interested in? How can I help you succeed in these interests? We must take time to get to know and listen to our students and children in order to help them set and determine their path.
What is one area you can give more choice to your child or student?