Unmotivated Really?

It is that time of year again, when teachers have flyers in their mailboxes for in-service training. PD specialists are promoting their latest and greatest ideas. “Classroom Management that works!” “Writing across the curriculum!” and “Motivating the Unmotivated!” The flyers seem to arrive the same time every year, just as teacher burn-out sets in just before the holiday breaks. The flyers are tempting to teachers that are stressed about classroom performance or meeting their evaluation goals. The titles seem so tempting and the time could not be better.

BUT are there unmotivated students in anyones classroom? All of the students in my classroom are motivated. The least of my concern is motivation. Some students are motivated by the curriculum. They are in class to learn.  Seeing value in gaining knowledge. They try their best to learn despite their ability to learn. These student get frustrated when they don’t understand ideas. Hands get raised, questions asked.   Learners show up early or stay after class. Learners have recognized motivations.

In my class I also have “pleasers”. The students who want to please their parents. Motivated by the praise and love of their parents. (or sometimes bribes). “Pleasers” work but not for love of learning. Mainly concerned with grades they often are focused on a specific grade achievement. Not often concerned about trying to do their best but just to achieve the required grade.

Then there is the group often labeled unmotivated, the “socials”. Students who treat school like the mall. Teachers are the shop owners who herd them around like cattle. Motivated by their friends. Wanting to make impressions and establish a reputation. School work is not a priority, often not a thought. “Socials” often are the most motivated students in the room. Passing notes, sneaking around to talk. Acting the role of student when teacher is watching while sneaking in the quick text to the friend in the next room.

Of course there are more types and combinations of motivation. Motivation is natural in all of us. What teachers need to figure out is how to focus motivation in all students towards the learning targets. This is the PD teachers need.

The first step is understanding the students motivations. Then we can focus it towards learning.

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