#MSchat and @AMLE Twitter event 8-14-14 8 pm ET

#MSchat and AMLE are partnering up to bring another splendid Flipped Twitter event to the Twitter-verse, and I would love to have you all to join the conversation.  Much appreciation to Dru Tomlin from AMLE for providing great material for us to chat about and moderating the chat!


Here are the details:

  • What is it? Twitter Event at #mschat about Motivating Students in the Middle Level
  • What else?  Our conversation will be motivated by the “Motivating Students with Teachable Moments” article in the August edition of AMLE Magazine: http://www.amle.org/Portals/0/pdf/amle_magazine/fi/AMLEMag_Aug2014.pdf. In fact, as you can see, the entire AMLE magazine is available for AMLE Associate (FREE!) members. 
  • When?  Thursday, August 14th from 8-9pmET
  • Where? #mschat

Where is the motivation in our schools structure?

Before children enter school, motivation comes naturally. Infants want to learn to walk, to get where they want to go. They learn to talk to communicate their needs. Motivation seems like a natural instinct. As 5 year-olds enter our schools they are self-motivated to learn, and explore. Discover in itself seems to engage and keeps students moving down the learning trail. Then out of nowhere students seem to loose the spark. Not all of them, but enough to make a noticeable difference. Teachers have to put on a “show” to engage learners, often struggling to hold their complete attention. It seems these students start loosing the fire for “School” learning around 4th grade and it stays un-sparked till high school. Why is this? Could it be school structure?

There are many reasons students, loose the desire for prescribed learning during these “middle” years of school. I am going to focus on ONE key reason that educators should examine for change. SCHOOL STRUCTURE: Here are a few questions to ponder:

1. Is it appropriate to place 9-14 year olds to sit in desks, quietly for an 8 hour day, expected to learn, surrounded by 30 of their peers? Do adults learn well in this environment?

No, not appropriate. Students need to have freedom to move around, get comfortable, socialize and have private spaces. Schools should look more like coffee shops or book stores, filled with comfortable seating and meeting places. Teachers should move freely among the students asking questions, checking in, giving feedback, while allowing students to learn at their on pace. Look at the office environments of Google and Mircosoft of inspiration here.

2. Would you work hard to learn, knowing you will move on to the next topic/level after a period of time?

After a couple of years in school, student realize that the they move on to the next level with or without effort. Grades might suffer but they are just LETTERS. Do any of us really like to work hard? (Well we do when we find passion) Students are still exploring for their passions, hard work always meets resistance at first. Schools need to foster passions, not force work towards the unknown. Students are turning off on subjects because they are hard before passion has a chance to set in. A current student told me he was bad at science. His passion was working as an audio technician at a teen night club. It took awhile but now he is excited to learn about sound and waves in science class. Schools structures make it too easy for student to sit back and arrive at the next level instead of earning it.

3. Should kids be told what is important to learn? or discover what is important to their lives?

The curriculum in schools is to defined. Requiring specific units of study, without giving students time to explore a topic based on their own interests. In my science curriculum we spend so much time studying the plant kingdom, heredity and genetics during our biology unit. Students always ask great questions about Animals. While I do answer their questions we don’t have time to explore the animal kingdom as much as students desire. Teachers are told to teach to students learning styles, isn’t their learning desires apart of their style? Curriculum needs to be more open ended. What students learn in school isn’t really important it is HOW they learn that is. Once a student learns how to learn anything will be accomplished.

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.