Student performance depends on a myriad of factors at home and at school, but motivation seems to be one of the hardest to pinpoint and affect. However, motivating students is an important role for both teachers and parents. Consider these ways to motivate your students:
Help your students articulate what is important to them. Even the most people-pleasing student will have a hard time staying motivated if she hasn’t bought in to the goal she’s working toward.
One student might want to read all of the Harry Potter books. Another student might want to learn how to use shadows and shading in sketches. Still another might want to learn how to take fix an engine in an old Mustang. Even if the goals do not seem inherently academic, we must first tap into the student’s passions and interests. Once they get that taste of achievement, they will want to chase after progress in other areas of their life, even through struggles or apathy.
Whether you are reading this as a parent or a teacher, your job is the same: to help your student identify what drives them and then to cultivate it.
Motivation and encouragement go hand-in-hand. Build a rich community in the classroom and among students of all grades by creating opportunities for students to cheer on one another, compete against each other, and work as a team together.
Of course, the spelling bee, science fair, math facts drills, group projects, and student tutoring come to mind. But, once again, nurturing motivation in a student shouldn’t be limited to the academics.
For example, a class vs. class competition to see who can raise the most money for the school through a bake sale will not fall squarely within the curriculum or class time. But students will use marketing principles to attract their costumers, chemistry and math in the baking process, accounting to determine their profit, and so on. And the experience of working together will boost confidence and strengthen relationships; even perceived negative outcomes – like conflict among students and the class who loses the completion – will provide opportunities for important lessons.
Parents can foster healthy relationships among their children and their peers in the same way. Whether it’s on a sports field or a play date with the neighbor, understand that a strong community boosts motivation and achievement for all.
Praise and support from a teacher or parent goes a long way. Consider writing sticky notes for your students or kids to put on their desk or bedroom door, simply telling them that you noticed them working hard or being kind to someone.
Providing regular feedback – both praise and constructive criticism – gives children the opportunity to feel seen and valued, accept that they’re both gifted and have room for growth, and to change their behavior accordingly.
Wanting to make their parents or teachers proud is a good thing – especially when the internal motivation and peer-to-peer community has already been established!
As you focus on motivation, remember that it’s not everything. Motivation will come and go, but consistency and diligence will carry us through when we just don’t “feel” like it.
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