I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of giving students purpose. It sounds like a really great idea, but how do you actually convince a child that things can be different than they are? So many things are outside the control of a child. They can't control who their parents are. They can't control the decisions the adults in their lives make. They can't control where they live or where they go to school or pretty much anything in their lives. How do we give students some power in their lives? How can we instill in them the thought that they can achieve great things?
Motivation can be defined as the process of giving someone a reason for doing something; a force or influence that causes someone to do something. We tend to motivate kids by consequences: if you don't do your work.....if you don't turn this in.....if you don't pass this test..... Here's a crazy idea! What if we motivated kids by helping them see what was in it for them? What if they began to see the value in hard work, grit, and determination because of the high it gives them when they succeed? It's sort of like me and Canva. I decided to start an edchat for beginning administrators and wanted to post a question a week using nice graphics and design. Some of my AP friends introduced me to Canva.com and I tried it several times. I kept reading about it, and watching tutorials, and doing it wrong, and redesigning and doing it right, and I finally got it! I was sitting in my chair at home and when I finally got it right I gave a whoop and a big fist pump and felt like I had just crossed the finish line at the Olympics! There was no one in the room with me - just me and my desire to conquer this digital tool. I was motivated and when I got it right the first time I was on cloud nine!
So what did that do for me and what is the payoff for students when we effectively motivate them to overcome obstacles?
1. My confidence grew. I suddenly believed I could do something I had no prior knowledge about or frame of reference for. The same will happen with our students.
2. My courage grew. I'm more willing to try something even more difficult or scary next time. Our students will not let fear stop them from exploring the unknown.
3. My awareness of my own personal power grew. I realized, once again, that I was capable and could learn things that seemed unapproachable to me. Our students need to know that things are not off limits just because they have never done them before. They'll be much more inclined to try it.
The Expiration Date
Truly, there's no expiration date on motivation. I've said this before, but each time I try something new I have to talk myself into it. I'm at the place in my life, as an adult, that I can talk myself into lots of new experiences. I've learned, like Scaredy Squirrel, that nothing really bad is going to happen in the unknown today. Our kids are just now learning this and it's our job to be their motivator, their cheerleader, their defense, a soft place to land when they fall, and a hand to lift them up so they'll try again. It's a daily endeavor, but one well worth the doing. They're really just little versions of us with good days and bad days, highs and lows, discouragements and enthusiasms. It's up to us to remind them they can do and achieve and grow and become and to do that as often as it takes to help them see how it feels to overcome.
Zig Ziglar said, "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily."