What do Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant have in common?…you have to watch The Best motivational Movie Ever to find out the answer to that question. But before you watch it, I want you to think about what motivates you? Is it your job, your children, your spouse, or your lifestyle? It is intrinsic? Now think about your self when you were in elementary school or middle school. What motivated you then?
I have been thinking a lot lately about how do we motivate children who sometimes don’t like to fail or have a hard time recovering from failure? I have gifted children in my classes that feel the pressure of success all the time. I have a few who think that they will never really make a difference because they don’t see their own potential. Their self-esteem is very low. So how do we get children like this to see their potential? First we need to look at the different kinds of Motivation.
There are four kinds of Motivation: positive, negative, extrinsic, and intrinsic.
As a teacher, I try to model motivation to my students so they can experience it, but I also try to give my students the opportunity to motivate each other. In my classroom I focus on being positive. I use positive motivation toward my students and encourage them to think out of the box, or try something they have never done before. I always try to stay positive even when we my students are struggling with a project that I know is challenging, because I know they will get the reward of finishing something difficult in the end.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational techniques are the hardest to teach and to model. It is one thing to tell my students that they will feel good at the end of the difficult project while they are going through it, and another for them to truly understand it. They don’t see the end as a positive sometimes. They see it as the end of one challenge and the beginning of another. I like to reflect on what they learned, and how they feel after the project is all finished. For example, my students have been working on rubber band powered cars for several weeks. What I thought would have been a three to four-week project turned out to be about 8 week project. They struggled with the design, the axils, and the rubber band mechanism. They wanted to quit. I continually motivated them to finish the project. Last week, they finally did finish, and we reflected on what they learned and how they felt now the project was over. They were just glad to be over but I had to hone in on the fact that they designed, built and engineered a car to move. They should feel good about that, which they were. They gained the intrinsic motivation that I was hoping they would.
Now the extrinsic motivation is what I am currently modeling to my students. Children believe they should get something for everything they do. I continually tell them that what they do in class, how they carry themselves in public, the good grades they earn (which is another argument we sometimes have when they tell me Mrs. so-and-so gave me a B…) will get will give them more opportunities in life than if they sat around and did nothing. I remind them that they are gifted. They are different. They have the intelligence to go to college early in highschool, and then finish college early. They will get a great job, and do all the things you want to. You just have to earn it, because in life nothing is just given to you.
I hope in your classroom or in your job, that you continue to motivate those around you in a positive way. Let others see the value in what they do intrinsically and intrinsically. This is something that be working on, and will continue to work on in the future.