How to motivate students?
Many, many teachers and many, many parents are asking themselves frequently: How do I motivate my students?
Knowing how to motivate students is important because so many students have no drive. In fact, the older they get, from my experience, the less motivated they become. Not always, but often.
There are so many reasons why our children lose motivation. But I think there are three main reasons that children are unmotivated.
Three Reasons for Lack of Motivation
- fear of failure
- lack of identify
- habit of laziness
I’ve discussed the fear of and the importance of failure here. It’s a biggie. It impacts adults and kids alike. But it shouldn’t stop us from trying. Failure is an important part of learning.
The second reason is lack of identity or vision.
It might be a bigger problem than the failure issue. It’s lack of vision. People who don’t have a vision, have no self-identity. Just like adults need a vision of themselves, so do students.
If you are wondering how a vision of one’s self creates motivation, here is a real life example.
My 15 year old son was completely behind in his co-op work one week. I suggested he just not turn it in, and catch up later. (I wasn’t encouraging him to slack off. He had extenuating circumstances.)
His answer to me shocked me:
That’s not who I am. I always do my homework.
I was floored! And proud! My son knows who he is.
And he was so determined to live up to his own view of himself that he did all of his work. In fact, when my husband and I woke up the next morning, my son was sitting in the school room doing school work. At 5 am.
If a person, adult or child, has no self-identify, they are more likely to be unmotivated.
The third is the habit of laziness.
Laziness is a habit. A bad one. And habitual laziness in children can be the parents’ fault as much as the kids.
Over the years that I’ve taught high school students, I have noticed the tendency for some–again, not all–students to think their education is the responsibility of their teachers or their parents. (These are homeschool students, but I have known public school students with the same attitude.
I sort of understand this in elementary kids, but middle school and high school kids?
When we do too much for our children, we rob them of the opportunity to do for themselves. We rob them of the opportunity to grow. To see what they can do! And we can do too much, making their education more about us than about them.
Children need to take ownership for their education, moving from being externally motivated to being internally motivated.
I realize this happens at various stages. Hopefully, it occurs sometime before or during high school.
I’m not talking about being organized enough to handle the logistics of school work–the planning, scheduling. I’m not talking about students getting straight A’s in every subject.
I’m simply talking about students having a desire and a willingness to work hard and do what is required of them.
Surprisingly, little kids have the desire and the willingness, if not the ability to work hard. It’s the desire behind the expression common to toddlers–No, I do it! Even though the lack the ability, the toddlers have the desire. Somewhere, along the way, there is a flip. Kids have the ability, but loose the desire.
It can be surprising, but when high school students want to go somewhere with friends, to read a particular book, or to acquire a certain electronic device or article of clothing, They are able to research all the logistics involved in making it happen. Do they do the same when it comes to their education? Do they do the same when it comes to completing their homework?
So what’s the answer to motivating students?
How to Motivate Students
The solution to fear of failure: Reward them for trying, even if they fail. Avoid unnecessary criticism. And when they do fail, remind them of who they are and what they’re capable of it.
The solution to lack of identify: Encourage them to develop a vision of who they want to be, and help them to get there. Remind them of the good you see in them, even if they can’t see it themselves.
The solution to the habit of laziness: As they’re able to do for themselves, let them. Within reason, let them fail. Just be there to pick them up when they do. And help they to try again.