I teach in a school where I get to see children excited about learning. Every. Single. Day.
Is it always perfect? Of course not.
Do the kids sometimes get frustrated when they’re challenged with something difficult? Absolutely… but (stealing Tom Hank’s line again from A League Of Their Own) the “hard is what makes it great.”
When a child learns something new and rises up from a challenge, they find so much about what’s inside themselves. (We all know this. Should know this.) As a teacher, there’s nothing like seeing the satisfaction and joy on a child’s face when he/she has accomplished something that initially seemed too difficult. I love seeing how motivated my students are about what they want to learn.
Important to note… we don’t do traditional testing. (or grades, or homework, or grade levels, etc.)
The article goes on to note that students actually perform better on tests when they are not motivated… as if this information should tell us something valuable. Students who are motivated to learn do not perform on tests as well as their peers who aren’t motivated.
Does student motivation even matter? Seriously?
Do you care if kids care about what they’re learning? (Not what the curriculum tells them to care about, but what THEY actually care about.) Do you care if they are bored out of their minds? Do you care if they wake up in the morning and groan about going to school?
Do you care that they forget most of what they have memorized for a test after the test is over?
Do you care that we are producing automatons who have learned more about being compliant and filling in bubbles than about thinking deeply?
Do you care if these CHILDREN are basically little hamsters hopping onto their wheel to perfunctorily execute the “same old, same old” day in and day out?
I care, and I’m horrified. Have WE become those hamsters spinning the wheels in our own lives so much so that we don’t care if we suffer others to the same fate?
The homework battle, the incessant testing… these kids are becoming drones, and does anyone even care?
I don’t want that for MY life. Why would I even think that this would be ok for a CHILD?
Children should be running. Playing. Discovering. Examining. Creating. Singing. Dancing. Making mistakes with the freedom to learn from them… and that won’t go on a record to haunt them from one level to the next.
And for the record, when I write “children,” that doesn’t mean only primary aged kids. Have you talked with a high school kid recently? Some are so serious and stressed out all the time. Why do we do this to them?
As for me, I don’t want the kind of life where I am not learning something new and exciting every single day. I don’t want drudgery. In my current position as a teacher at Anastasis Academy, I’m extremely fortunate in what I get to do. I LOVE going to work every single day. I don’t wake up dreading the routine, because it’s different every day.*
That is what I want for my students… and for all children. I want them to find something that makes them happy. I want them to find and enjoy their calling. Not their job. Not their “have to.” Not their hamster wheel.
Too many kids associate “learning” with “painful,” something they must suffer through. Why have we reinforced this? Why have we allowed people who don’t have an inkling of what true accountability means to define it for us? For our children?
I want all kids to be able to experience learning the way that my students do. I want kids to care so much about the things they learn, that they begin to think deeply and ask questions. I want all kids to be excited about learning something new and to know that school is a place where that can happen.
So, yes. Motivation DOES matter… but not if you think learning is something you could even begin to measure with a test.
*A lot of people will argue with me and say that my traditional schooling is what led me to the opportunity of finding my calling. Not true. I was one of those really fortunate kids in school, because I have a freakish memory. School was incredibly easy for me. I was able to learn beyond what was expected of me, because of my freaky memory. While other kids were forced to practice and drill facts over and over again, I was allowed to hang out in the library and read whatever I wanted. I was allowed to create art work for my school. I was allowed to spend time in the music departments learning more about music. As for my work as an educator… I had a lot of UN-learning to do to get to where I am now. An upcoming blog post will delve into this more.