Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Apathy in schools? Where?

Apathy and student motivation...

How can we, mere educators influence the motivation of our students? What if we get IDK as the typical answer on their page? What if they exert no effort, at all? What are our options? Punishment? Discipline? Sending them to the office? Getting them out of the room so other students can learn?

Students are just like all the rest of us but more exaggerated. They want healthy and solid relationships with adults but have not learned how to articulate that need, so they often act out. They also act out because they cant read well enough to learn. They also act out because they don't have a worthy model to emulate. What should we do if this happens?

Let's consider an option. Teach.  Teach them to behave. Teach them to read. This means we will need to understand their needs. We will have to know what they want and what motivates them. This is best done through dialogue and getting to know each other. For a student to take an educational risk, the fear of rejection must diminish to the point where the relationship is no longer in jeopardy. This is after trust is established. Spend, rather invest, extra time connecting with those kids that typically struggle and the results will be astounding. Read a book and take the imaginary adventure that comes from fiction.  Then training them how to read to take the intellectual adventure that comes from non-fiction takes an entire new perspective.  This builds human connections, improves motivation and reduces apathy and improves their hope.  

Apathy, and portrayed apathy, both stem from the lack of hope.  Hope for an improvement. Hope that tomorrow will actually be better.  Hope that this relationship will not hurt, end or scar.  Hope that the safety physically may transfer to intellectual.  Hope for success.

This can not be done alone but must be done by caring adults.

Then hold high expectations for self and others.  Point no sarcasm at them and acknowledge personal learning struggles publicly so students learn it is ok to fail, as long as you persist. Finally, measure time and progress with a calendar and NOT a watch. The baggage many students bring is unbelievable.  To improve our perspectives, we introduce our new teachers to the community through a bus tour of the neighborhoods.

Students are motivated for healthy relationships, even though the ones that need it the most have the fewest skills.  If their teachers don't teach these skills, who will?  The family?  The village?  Their peers? 

We may be only Winfield, but we are going to be on the map!

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