What Gets YOU Going?

Writing Challenge: Motivation

Cartoon Amino

While doing my MEd I was surrounded by individuals of a very different socioeconomic class than I am. It was shocking to see classmates pull up in birthday gift BMWs, to hear of Christmas trips to their ski chalet in Switzerland (not exagerating), and to realize that “hold up, not everyone needs student loans to get an education?”. One of the best friends I made, and whom I moved in with when my found-in-the-newspaper military roomies’ habits left me and my belongings smelling like I was always fresh from a visit to Cheech and Chong, was the only other one “like me”. Although she was raised by a single mom and has a different skin colour, she also understood that sometimes Kraft Dinner was all you got. Sometimes you had to choose between coffee grinds and toilet paper.

Toronto Star

[Insert: I know that even being at university is a huge privilege. I’m simplifying…]

It really started me wondering: how did we get there? What was it in our upbringing, and in ourselves, that allowed us to dream, and do, post secondary education? What made us, who could’ve remained in our teaching positions earning money, choose to move to a different city for a year, and slog fertilizer bags for minimum wage in the hours we weren’t in courses, reading, or writing our thesis? How did we get and stay motivated?

Motivation is a strange animal. It can burrow within us, or slink about our extremities, sniffing until desirable food is presented. It can hibernate.

I see students who have that intrinsic motivation, so deep in their soul, that nothing will deter them from what they have set their mind on. And I see students who need continual extrinsic motivation to keep them on task (or to even start one). Admittedly I value intrinsic over extrinsic and so I wonder how, then, do we teach intrinsic motivation? Several articles I’ve perused focus on encouraging students to self-motivate but, as parents and educators, CAN we teach it?

Larry Ferlazzo states in Tingley’s article that “Inviting students to have a voice in classroom decisions — where they sit, what day a test takes place, in what order units are studied, or even where a plant should be placed in the classroom — can help them develop that greater sense of control”. https://www.wgu.edu/heyteach/article/how-encourage-intrinsic-motivation-students1809.html

Reflecting on my practices: I had simply considered these as respectful gestures that aided in our bonding as a class rather than the encouragement of intrinsic motivation. I now realize that when, in our classroom, students find names for the plants, decide which book will be our next study, choose when they will use the standing desk or a time to work in our tall but roof-less refrigerator box “room”, we are inviting that motivational animal out of its lair…

When we, Pavlov-like, give “Gotchas” to students for acts of kindness, going above and beyond to assist someone, or simply something that has stretched them individually, I realize now we are encouraging that motivational animal out of hibernation…

Maybe these very simple gestures will someday help them find the motivation to do and try things. Maybe it will be one tiny little piece in their journey to somewhere exciting…whether they show up in a birthday gift BMW or by bus, whether they pedal there on a bike or after trotting long city blocks on their own two very-calloused feet…

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