Monday, September 25, 2006

Motivation

My motivation strategies are of the "minimalist" vain. This is done on purpose. If there is one thing I have learned teaching-- it is that you cannot congratulate students for doing what is expected. There is an underlying philosophy that you teach them when you reward mediocre work and behavior. Students NEED to learn the value of intrinsic rewards-- this will help them when there is not a cookie, brownie, or prize for going to work, getting up early or staying late to finish a project or paper, and hopefully, when they graduate college and high school. My students have to work very hard for praise and when I give it I am super specific and I make it sound "good." Last year, I said "good job" when they could have worked harder. I gave reward points when they didn't earn them. And I let things slide by making excuses for my students and myself. Needless to say this was not a very good classroom climate. Although my students felt very free to be creative with me, I could've motivated students to perform even better than they did.

My new system is working much better. I have not baked a single cookie, I have not handed out a single piece of candy, and I only have three exceptional pieces of student work on my "wall of fame." I do not say "good job" and I only say "yes" or "no" when passing student work (idea stolen from another teacher). They work much harder for me and I immediately hand back assignments that are unfinished or unacceptable. All these seemingly harsh tactics are coupled with a relentless drive to keep students on task throughout class. Phone calls and detention if they did not complete assignments or "try" on tests, standing over them until they start working (until they say “Ms. Lee don’t play), writing notes of a positive nature on their papers, or helping them get started and relating positive statements. With students who are inclusion students or low-performing students I am not as harsh as with students who are on grade-level. But I hate having any student that just sits there without even making an effort.

As for motivation that helps keep students on-task when there might be temptation to misbehave (60% days, right before holidays, and or crazy administrative changes) I play competitive games. All keeping in the minimalist vain, I reward students by getting to leave class early, catching a beanie frog to answer a question, and receiving a bathroom pass, etc. Even though I may be teaching students one objective, I have numerous goals for them-- motivation training is one of them. I strongly believe students need to be pushed into using intrinsic rewards as motivation.

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