Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is Any Child Actually Unmotivated?

In the previous post we looked how the roots of missing motivation go deep, and aren't just caused by kids having a "bad attitude". Another way to view this is that children cannot be unmotivated across the board. All of us can only be motivated or unmotivated in reference to particular tasks. So in this sense these kids are only unmotivated to do the sort of school work that they are being asked to do. Most schools, for a wide array of reasons, don’t do nearly enough to engage the child’s imagination or buy in. Not that I'm saying this is easy to do. But there are many charter schools and alternative schools that do a far better job of engaging the child by finding out what he is interested in, and collaboratively coming up with meaningful projects for him from there. This was John Dewey’s huge contribution to education. Doing math on a ditto is altogether less meaningful than doing math to solve a problem you’re interested in, like say calculating how many schools supplies you would want to buy to open a school store.

Or yet another angle to look at this from is that in a sense we are all motivated across the board in one sense, to make sense of the world, to preserve our self-concept and to protect ourselves emotionally. Lots of this sort of motivation occurs below the conscious level. From this angle engaging the unmotivated student involves finding out what sorts of topics she tends to find meaningful and proposing projects that would help her to explore these areas.

In regard to the emotional aspects, it inolves learning to talk with her in ways that support her opening up and taking a chance rather than keeping herself up inside her shell where it makes sense from her perspective to be, since it seems to her that exposing her wishes, interests and dreams will only result in more pain as it has in the past.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Unmotivated Kids

In my estimation this is a very wise thought by Charles Fay, PhD from the Love and Logic Institute. Seeing kids like this as manipulative and willful misses an awful lot of what is going on. In addition to the emotions that Charles addresses below, there are also a lot of lagging skills and unsolved problems that are often keeping the child trapped in the "unmotivated" state:
In approximately 99% of cases, the child's lack of motivation results from far more than simple laziness or a conscious desire to act out. The roots of apathy go far deeper, into feelings of frustration, anger, hopelessness, lack of control, or loss. The majority of these feelings lay at the subconscious level, where they wreak havoc on a child's ability to engage in higher-level thinking tasks, such as sustained attention to detail, problem-solving, memory, perseverance, and self-control.

This is why punishing children for getting bad grades usually backfires. Since they are already feeling bad about life, how is making them feel worse about it going to get them motivated to succeed?

…rather than making it worse with anger, lectures, threats and punishments. At the core of what we teach is the importance of loving kids for who they are…rather than who we want them to be. Yes! The healing process begins when we end the power struggle by saying, "We will love you no matter how well or poorly you do in school. Your grades are your grades…not ours. That's why we are no longer going to fight with you about them. Just let us know how we can help."
What are your thoughts on what's going on with these kids?