Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Unmotivated Students

How does a teacher motivate a student who is unwilling to participate in their own learning? I recently spoke to a teacher who was on the brink of pulling her hair out because her student's did not care about upcoming state testing. They were taking a practice test so the student's could learn how to take this particular test. It's the first time they've taken it and they needed to be prepared. They are not allowed to talk, but the teacher told me several were talking. She explained to them the importance of the test and that it can help them to be grouped where they need to be next year.

The student's responses amazed us both. One student said they didn't care how they did because their friends were dumb and they wanted to do bad so they could be with their friends. Another student said if they did bad they would be put in a lower group and have less work to do.

This is sad! What happened to the days where a good grade made a kid feel good about themselves? When did the self-motivation leave and the notion that what you do is good enough enter?

I deal with this daily. I have one student in my after school program that is an A/B student. The child will throw a math book on the table next to me and say, "I don't know how to do this, you need to help me." When I ask if the student has reviewed the material I get rolled eyes. I start by reading the question out loud and then ask the student how they think the problem should be solved. More eye rolling. I then explain how the examples were solved. At this point I either get more eye rolling, the child leaves the table in a huff, or the child makes a minimal attempt to answer my questions. The student has told me more than once that it would just be easier if I just say the answer. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I am a teacher. I guide a student to find the answer. I do not "give" the answer. I will not participate in a child's instant gratification. I do not believe this fosters self-motivation. I am constantly learning and I work hard to gain new knowledge. I expect the same from my students. I expect them to participate in their own learning. When they realize they are able to learn, when that light bulb goes off in their minds, it is that point that they become motivated to learn more. When they know they "can" accomplish something they will be more motivated to continue learning.

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