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Teacher Talk: What works and does not work for motivating students to learn in your classroom?

Teachers, please join this month’s Teacher Talk conversation post by discussing the question: What works and does not work for motivating students to learn in your classroom?

Welcome, teachers!  Our words matter.  Please join the conversation.  We must remember out of all things and people involved in education, nothing makes a greater impact on a child’s education than a teacher.  That is not to devalue the other stakeholders, for they all play a significant role, but we have the greatest potential to impact change, for we are the change agents in the arena where the most difference can be made–the classroom.  And though we may feel at times that things are out of our control, we have to believe otherwise and find the courage to confront the things that we know we must change. We have to help change the narrative and believe that we can help move the needle and change education.  Our words matter.

Note on comments.  Please post honest, open comments.  We have to have real conversations to make any kind of significant change, even if those conversations are tough.  But, please do not post comments that are degrading and/or defamatory to any individuals.  I will not be able to approve them, and unfortunately, your voice will not be heard.


7 Replies to “Teacher Talk: What works and does not work for motivating students to learn in your classroom?”

  • I am a fortunate individual. When I made the decision to become a teacher in my 3rd year of college, it was the best decision I ever made. That was 1987. almost 30 years later, I am passionate about my job. My reasons for loving what I do are still the same. I believe that our schools offer students opportunities and skills that students will benefit from the rest of their lives ( I believe in education and I play a key role in providing those skills) and I love children. That is still true today. Education has changed a lot over the last 30 years, but students really haven’t. I have taught in both urban and rural settings and have found that “kids are kids”. Their need to be acknowledged and encouraged is the same no matter their circumstances. They need teachers who will respect them and encourage them. I have seen a lot of teachers come into this business and leave before finishing their careers. Most of those teachers expectations about the system and students were unrealistic. These same teachers did not seem to share my passion and love for learning and students. Almost daily, a student, parent, co-worker, or community member says something positive to me about the work I do or the way I do my work. This is all the motivation I need. I am here to serve. When people acknowledge my efforts and encourage me, it makes my passion for what I do even more intense. When people ask me how I have managed to teach almost 30 years and want to teach more, I simply tell them ” I love what I do”. No matter what line of work a person chooses, they should ask themselves, can I do this when I am 50 or 60 or maybe even 70. Certainly, I have the option of going into administration. Only one problem, I love the classroom.

  • With the push for students to take multiple honors and Advanced Placement classes, a very different dynamic is created in a school and the classroom. Grades are a motivator for students who are high achievers because they have a thirst to learn, but students who are not interested in the content and only want the grade do not possess the same thirst. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you teach an elective, an honors, or an AP class, the students need to know you care about them so there is a willingness to complete the assignments.

    I teach an elective so students typically choose to be in my classes because of the content. Some choose my class at the encouragement of their guidance counselor because they know I will do all I can to make accommodations to help the student succeed. All people need to know they are valued and respected, so it is important to make connections of interest. For me, this means I can’t hunker down behind my desk scoring student work. I have to be moving through my room talking with kids so the project I get is the one I intended when I introduced my lesson and the targets.

  • As a college professor at a public university, I completely agree with the idea of building relationships with the students. When the students see that the teacher is fully committed to student success and helping students to achieve at the highest level, they will also commit. One of my favorite classes to teach is also one of the hardest we offer. I set really high expectations and seriously challenge them but tell them I will be with them the entire way. When they are stuck at 4 am, they e-mail and I reply at 6 am when I wake up. They stop by my office at all ours and I am happy to help. I meet a group of them at Starbucks on Sunday at noon to help with an assignment. When they see that I am true to my word of being there for them, they will challenge themselves even more and do everything they can to not let me down. After all, we have a relationship now.

    • Hi, Kelley. Thank you for joining the conversation. When I think back on any success or failure I’ve had in the classroom, it has always been about relationships. They are such important investments. Again, thank you. Your words matter.

  • While some students are motivated by their grades, these students are more and more in the minority. For many, grades are like an empty promise. It doesn’t mean much and therefore does not motivate them to do better. For many, a grade is just a letter on a piece of paper and nothing else. This is especially true when they fall into a hole so deep that they feel there is no way out. If there is no hope to pass, then why try. I realized this was fact, rather than fiction, when I changed my grading policies and saw that there was hope.

    So if grades don’t work, then what does? Bottom line, it comes down to relationships. Students need to know that you care. Establishing these relationships can be as simple as greeting them at the door each. Some only need a quick “Hi” or “How was your weekend?” or “How was your concert last night?” It doesn’t always have to be a deep, long, and serious conversation. All you have to do is relate to them in some way. When they believe you care, they will the things you ask them to do.

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