Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Saturday, April 18, 2009

This Week's Education Assignment - Motivation and Self-Determination Skills

I have to say that this has been one of my favorite chapters in this class thus far. I believe motivation is so important in keeping students interested. And I love the suggestions offered in the text. I could not agree more that we, as teachers, need to project enthusiasm and listen to our children's interests. I believe that motivation simply comes down to respecting our students enough to care about what interests them. Respect shown garners respect given. This definitely helps with classroom management. I am not going to respect someone if I feel that person does not respect me at all. Even as an adult, I respect my managers at work much more when they show me respect and treat me as an individual, not just someone who does a job that they do not want to do. When we show a genuine interest in what our students learn, that shows them respect. They understand that we care, and they will want to do their best for that person who cares for them. I could not agree more with the text when it encourages teachers to encourage curiosity, questions, and inquiry and when it says that teachers often need to be patient. All children are different. And because they are different, they learn differently. It is so important to honor those differences if we would like students to honor us. When I think of motivation, I always think of Ephesians 6:4, which exhorts parents to not exasperate their children. The same could be an exhortation of any teacher (parent or not). If we expect our children (students) to honor us, we have to be worthy of that honor. Respect, I truly believe, is the key to effective motivation and effective classroom management. These go hand-in-hand.

As far as teaching self-determination skills goes, I think this is also highly important. I believe this is one of the areas that schools, in general, fail at the most. They are not producing independent learners. I probably sound like a broken record, but this is where listening to the child and following the child's interests comes into play. It is so important that our students become critical thinkers. Teaching in a way that promotes self-determination skills and independent learning is critical if critical thinking is our goal. Children are taught from kindergarten to follow just what the teacher says and does instead of being allowed to follow their curiosity, interests, talents. Then when they reach the upper grades, teachers try motivational techniques to teach students to think for themselves. The students do not know how to, because they were stopped from doing so at a critical stage in their development. The teaching of self-determination skills should begin at a young age. Better yet, children should be allowed to learn critical thinking from the time they are born and all throughout their school years. They need to be allowed to problem solve and to follow their curiosity all throughout their youth if we expect them to be motivated adults.

Last week, I wrote about one of the reinforcements my husband and I used with Taliesin and Nathanael in that each of them were allowed to choose an Easter toy for their hard work in the store while we were shopping for groceries for a BBQ. The day after they bought their Easter toys (a musical toy in which a trigger is pulled and a rabbit spins around to the song "Easter Bonnet"), Nathanael's toy stopped shutting all the way from so much playing with it. He asked me for a rubber band. I tried to put the rubber band on in a way that would allow the toy to both open and shut. Nathanael, my four-year old son, kept telling me that would not work. He was right. He then took the rubber band and asked me to "put it on this way." When I put the rubber band on as he asked me to do, the toy worked just the way he wanted it to. Such is critical thinking. All too often, this skill is lacking in school-age children. All are capable of it, but they have been taught to allow others to do their thinking for them. Another example is the restaurant that I work at currently has kids' meals. There have been so many times that elementary school children have brought their toys up to me to change out for them because they do not want that kind. They actually have to be told that they can change with the friend standing next to them. They do not think of that. I definitely do believe that self-determination is essential for independent learning and critical thinking! When students are taught these critical skills, as these examples show; they are motivated to think for themselves, which results in a better managed classroom.



Mama Lavender said...

Great post!

The schools can really do quite a number on our childrens ability to self-direct. Two years ago my then 7th grade daughter decided to give homeschooling a try. I had her tested and discovered w/ the exception of math she was testing at the 12th grade level. So what I did was assign her math to keep her on target since she has firm goals regarding attending college and then set her lose. Told her she could spend her days learning about whatever she wanted or just reading what gave her joy.
Long story short - she hated the lack of direction - told me so and asked to go back to school less than 9months later and is happy as a calm being given all these assignments and deadlines. I miss having her here with Eli and me - but am glad I didn't push because we all get along better now that she's in her comfort zone again.

unschoolermom said...

Thank you! I definitely agree with you about public schools.