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Presented by Craig Shapiro, HPE Teacher/Secondary Lead Teacher, William Tennent High School/Centennial School District
In today's challenging times it's more important than ever to help students become motivated with their learning. It starts with us! The session will discuss ways to develop a higher level of motivation both in and out of the school environment. While the session isn't grade level specific, it's generally geared more towards a secondary student. All teachers can benefit though.
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I am so excited to be here speaking about a topic that I love. It's just a great topic especially now with COVID-19. It’s called motivation, let's do this. I want to thank brainstorm 20/20 for giving me the opportunity to speak and more specifically a good friend of mine who I connected with on Twitter, Pat Haussmmann. He is a great guy, and I really recommend that you connect with him and also I'd love for you to connect with me as well. I put my email address, Twitter, Facebook, linkedin, and Instagram in the opening slide. I am personally a huge fan of Twitter, so I hope you can check it out. So what I'm going to do is, I'll just run through the presentation, you'll get a copy of this and I hope you'll look at it again at some point. There's an introduction video and a piece right here that's something that I usually put on Twitter.
So the first thing is we have to realize that motivation is going to be lacking for students, families, and educators; it just is. I don't care how positive your motivation is going to be, in times like these, for many reasons students, even though they might say “oh my God I don't like going to school”, miss school. I can't tell you the number of kids that have said “ I really didn't realize how much I miss being at school.” So that's a great thing for you, if you were a teacher. For students, this has to do with many things. Even though we think that they're really good at technology, it's not this kind of technology they are used to. It’s totally thrown away their learning curve, how they learn and communicate.
For families, it's simple. I have two kids. I have a daughter, who's a freshman in college. She's home, and I have a son who is a junior in high school. He actually goes to my school, and now home as well. It's incredibly challenging for them, because they are constantly getting up at super late hours, and you know their motivation is causing our families motivation to drop. There is also, for many families, huge financial responsibilities while being at home, and lots of variables that are just making it hard for families to be motivated themselves.
Then, lastly, it's about educators. I'm a teacher. I've been a teacher for 30 years, and I love being at school. I mean that, I really do! And I am sure that you feel the same way, but right now we are being asked to teach in a completely different way. Even if you did technology before, you're not doing it like this. Everything we do now is email, learning management systems, Google Meets and Zoom. It's brand-new, and that is a surefire recipe for causing a lack of motivation, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's so many other things that go on; just one thing like assessing students can cause amazing amounts of stress. Especially if you are a structured teacher.
Okay, so now we're going to look at the challenges we all face. Number one for students, and just looking at the list, I don't want to cover everything in detail. Family support is huge. Also, a lot of kids don't understand the work, the directions there can be really hard. How many times kids will say to me, “Shap, I don't understand the directions.” Even though I thought the directions were very clear, I guess they didn’t. The lack of flexibility, and I'll talk about that later. What I mean by that, is we've got to be flexible with kids. We can't be stuck on only one way or one thing. I know from personal experiences with students that language barriers are huge. If you have English language Learners, and kids that don't grasp the language it is going to be so hard because now you can't see them face-to-face. We already talked about how kids are home, and maybe they're not motivated, especially if they weren't motivated before, it's going to be hard to be motivated now. Finally, busy work can be challenging even in the best of situations. Now, kids will be like, “why am I doing this, it is a total waste!” Again, the technology knowledge they have and the home challenges that they face make being motivated hard for most kids.
For educators, just being home is a cause of lacking motivation. The lack of structure is going to be challenging. I know plenty of teachers that have certain things they do all the time, over and over. They're comfortable with it at school, but now they've probably tried so many techniques to get that structure. I know I have, and I'm still trying to do that. We have the issues of assessment. Right now our school is using complete or incomplete. Without grades, it can be extremely challenging for educators because we're so used to grades. I won't get into a grading thing. Admin support, communicating with families can be hard, and the stress of what I do now, just means that after we are hopefully done with this, and we go back to normal, what does that look like? There are huge variables in learning for all kids, and even now more than ever, just the technology implementation can be a motivation killer. If you were somebody who didn't use a lot of technology, you are really going through some tough times and lacking motivation.
Lastly, for families, the challenges they face are the same kinds of things. That's part of the issue with three groups of students, teachers and families. We are all going through the same thing. For example, many parents don't have any idea how to use the technology that their kids are being asked to use. They have job and financial responsibilities that you're hearing about all the time. I don't need to rehash the economy piece, but that's a big problem. I keep coming back to technology and computer access. I'm lucky, my kids are lucky, we each have our own device. There are so many families that don't have that luxury. I just had a conversation with a mother,who told me that she and her husband are essential workers in the medical field and her daughter, who I teach cannot get access to a computer until 4:00 in the afternoon. I mean what is she doing until 4. Think about the pressure that puts on the kid and the family. Iif you are a graduating senior, which I teach plenty of. I feel so bad for them, and we know that's a huge stressor, and it causes a lack of motivation. Sleep habits are another big one. I know my kids are getting up super late. and it's challenging for me not to get upset, but I'm trying hard. There is this feeling of being hopeless. Like when is it going to come to an end. So now that we've covered all this. Let's really get to the good stuff and that's how we fix it. How do we get motivation back with families, students and educators?
Here we go for students. The first thing is we want to be positive. Of course that should be in the classroom as well, but we really need to be positive now, especially when it's easier not to be. It’s also necessary to demonstrate a certain degree of flexibility. Sure, it's easy to have deadlines and due dates, but right now if you want to motivate your students try showing a high level of flexibility, with the understanding of the things they are going through. I’m a huge believer in the “often praised principle!” If you have four assignments, and three of them don't get done, but one does, I know it's hard to give kudos to the one assignment when there are still three that are still missing. Do it! You'll be happy you did! We need to make sure that we are praising students for the good work they do, and making sure that it's more than just a “hey good!” We should tell them what you're really proud of. Be a great listener. It’s such an important skill in normal situations. Right now, with so much uncertainty listening can make a huge difference for kids. It’s a skill that we all need, especially now with the communication and technology piece.
So this presentation is about motivation. How do you get kids motivated? I always mention to them about trying things that relate to managing your time better, taking some time for you, exercise, be with your friends (socially not in person!) Along with this, is having pride in your work. Mentioning to them about doing their best work because they want to excel and not for a grade but for themselves can be tough, but with practice can really make a difference. Many kids are also afraid to take a risk, which leads to our last one. That’s challenging them to be better every single day. Students in large part want to be challenged especially if it's coming from your heart and you really mean it. Yes it has to be positive! No matter the grade level, kids want that and if you just keep the challenges manageable for them they won't get frustrated.
On to the family peace. Like I’ve mentioned previously, families are going through hard times. Whether it’s health issues, financial problems, or just coping with the daily life of uncertainty. Having two teens myself, I'm doing all I can to try to motivate my family. Here are some things that may be helpful: number one, be appreciative of what other families are going through. I know that other situations may be far worse than mine, so it helps me to be appreciative of what they're going through, and understanding that a non-judgmental attitude or positive approach to helping them will help create a motivated family situation. Be aware that some parents don't understand where we're coming from, and they might not always agree on how things are handled. But we really do need to be positive with them, if we expect the motivation to increase. I make a point to stress the importance of us working together. It really does take a team effort. When things are tough, don’t be the teacher who complains about their child. Instead, mention what their kids are doing well. Nothing is going to get a parent motivated like you calling up and saying, hey I love what your kids doing in class!” I’ve witnessed many situations where after contacting them with a positive message, they will go right back to their son or daughter and mention that their teacher called and said, you're doing a great job!” It also helps them to see the light at the end of a tunnel. As a teacher of many seniors, I am trying so hard to do this not always successfully. It’s the constant talk about how I'm going to help you get through it and that in the end you’ll be okay. Even though it sounds like a stretch, there are new skills that families are developing at home. Learning how to manage time, being creative with family time, and actually spending much more time together is a great motivator. One final important point. Many families may not ask for help. Give it anyway. Just by inquiring about their child will be a great motivational tool to provide that little push that can make a difference.
On to the final educator piece. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. This has been one of the greatest challenges staying motivated. There are strategies which will work though. The first thing I’d say is to be positive even when it's easy to look at all the negative stuff around us, it really does work. Next, is the same flexibility piece that we show with students. We have to be flexible with ourselves. I’ve done so many takes of this presentation and I know it’s not perfect because of the situation. We can’t beat ourselves up over these types of things. Instead, let’s learn from them, grow as people and educators. Taking these challenges is one of the greatest rewards of being a teacher. When we do challenge ourselves, we must stay on task if something doesn't work the first time. With our current situation, we are all learning on the fly. Trying to accomplish everything at one time will cause fatigue and a loss in confidence. Instead, a better, more effective approach is to think small first instead of trying to cover every single thing that you’d do in a regular class. Something simple like an announcement to your student may be a small sign that you haven't tried before. If you start small it's going to pay off big-time. Keep in mind that most educators are going through the same things we are. By being patient and surrounding yourself with positive people you’ll become more motivated. Before you know it, the people who are sharing your motivation and positivity will find somebody else. Lastly, allow yourself a pat on the back. You're worth it!
Anybody who knows me, knows I am always doing acronyms. So I did an acronym for the word motivate. Let’s quickly go through it. The M is for me, and what that means is that motivation no matter what starts with us, yes I'm going to mention having others around you but first we have to get ourselves motivated. The O is for being open for mistakes happening, because we're going to make them no matter what. The T even though I just mentioned the part is the team part. It’s just as important to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with other motivated people to help you. Whether it is your friends, family or fellow educators. They are there to support you.
As a health teacher, I talk a lot about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I like to think I am intrinsically motivated, but we all need that little I, which is incentive. Even a phrase or something that’s going to inspire you to do a little more. With that, we have to be willing to Venture out of your comfort zone and into uncharted waters. Yes, it can be challenging and sometimes scary, but if you do it enough they really pay off. Once you start to Achieve small steps and goals, you get to the point of building habits. You'll understand more when I talk about exercise. The biggest thing is if you start out small and you have that little achievement, before you know it you have developed a habit of being positive, working hard, and inspiring others. So whatever you plan on doing to get motivated, Take the challenge, it'll pay off and lastly, be Excited! I mean, get excited about being motivated. Get excited about helping others. If you do that it's going to have a long-lasting change and improve your positivity.
Everybody, I'm wrapping up! A huge thank-you! I hope you enjoyed the presentation, and more importantly, I hope that you were able to pick up one tip that inspired you, and made you smile. Even pass something on to your students and their families, and even to others that you know. Remember, building a motivated mindset starts with you. I have a short closing video. Hopefully you’ll check it out. Have a wonderful day! Stay safe, stay happy, get motivated!