Welcome to Day Fourteen of Just Jot it January, where, for a month – well, we jot. Whatever. However. Wherever. Whyever. It’s graciously hosted by Linda G.Hill.
When I think about the word ‘motivation’, it comes with a bit of duality. You see, as so often happens for me, I see things a bit differently than most people.
There’s nearly daily reports on how to motivate kids to learn. A quick Google search turned up over 27 million results! This one’s on motivating insecure students to work harder at tackling Common Core standards.
But what I notice here is that these articles is that, from the point of the children they’re intended to affect, they’re passive. The kids are seen as projects – getting them motivated is the object, not whether they have any innate interest in the subject matter. And, to me, that’s a mistake. Why?
Well, for answer, consider this article on motivation hacks (geared not at kids, this time, but at adults). There’s an assumption in this article that the reader has personal goals they wish to attain, and are looking for ways to up their motivation when it flags over the long haul.
Do you see the difference?
The children are being acted upon. They’re being told what to learn, and how to learn it, and what will be the measure of whether they have learned it, and they already know that the adults are going to test them and evaluate them on how well they did. They didn’t choose to do this; they’re being required to do this. It doesn’t matter whether they want to. Often, what they’re being taught has no intrinsic value in their lives. It’s information a group of adults decided they had to learn. The children aren’t invested in it for their own reasons.
What if someone was making you do something? Would you be as motivated as if you were doing something that you chose for yourself, something that you were passionate about, or that would help you meet another goal? Would you perhaps resent the way this forced thing took you away from other things you truly wanted to learn; things that feed your soul and your imagination? Things that matter deeply to you, right now?
Kids are as much people as grownups are. They resist agendas and manipulation and their time being wasted for things that just don’t matter to them.
Around here, motivation is never an issue in anyone’s learning. Our children learn as they will, what they will, how they will. No, they don’t learn all the things they’d be taught in school – but then, there’s a difference between teaching and learning. What they learn is immediately useful to them (otherwise, what’s the point?). Sometimes it takes them longer to encounter things than would be true if they were in school. But what they have access to, and what they learn, ranges across a wider breadth and deeper depth than what school can offer.
My daughter, 11.5, has been motivated to learn about various places in the world lately. She has friends she Skypes and plays Minecraft with who live in Australia. She’s fascinated by their manner of speaking, and the fact that they live in a wildly different time zone than we do, and by their opposite seasons (which leads her to learning about the Earth’s rotation and tilt and hemispheres and many other things). She’s also a serious collector of Littlest Pet Shop characters. She prefers older ones, which she buys on Ebay, from all over the world. She’s done a lot of research on models, rarity, counterfeits, filming and customizing. She has to budget to get the most from limited financial resources, and sometimes she takes on jobs around the house to pad her allowance. She’s designed props, sets, jewelry, and clothing for her pets. They have names, and personalities, and relationships (usually turbulent). She plays complex games with her two best friends. And she’s learning about the places the pets come from, too.
It could be that this idea of motivating students is a bit of a chimera. Seeing children as students tends to separate some adults from the full realization that these aren’t nameless statistics, but individual people – people with the same motivation as anyone else to do things they want to do, things that inspire and delight them.
What do you think? If you’re motivated, drop me a comment!
That’s it for me…find more jottings right here!
OK, there’s supposed to be a video here, but Youtube isn’t cooperating….here’s the link, instead.