Sunday, February 15, 2015

Finding the right motivation

As a teacher, I want students to eventually want to do things intrinsically, to be motivated by a passion of learning.  In reality, depending on their age/development, many students do things for a grade, a raffle ticket, a sticker, a toy, a piece of candy, money, an outside reward.  These material rewards are necessary at times, and it's hard to wean them off to just learn for the sake of learning.  This takes more than one teacher, one period, one year.  I think it takes encouragement from school and home, and over time, maybe, the student can push themselves off into college and beyond, find something of their choosing, study something that excites them. 

The current culture of instant-gratification and materialism, #firstworldproblems, seems to keep students farther away from being intrinsically motivated.  The resiliency of the kids that do adapt to #firstworldproblems is done with decision-making.  "Adversity Leads to Beliefs Leads to Consequences" shows that an attitude of positivity can affect outcomes.  Another view is that having positive role models, "charismatic adults," to provide choices can allow students to feel a sense of control.  In the end, children must learn to have intrinsic motivation.

One of my hopes for my own children is that they will find and keep this intrinsic motivation.  We hope they will learn something for the sake of learning; satisfy curiosity with inquisitiveness; become better at their sport for the sake of fun and health; find a career that when they wake up to go to "work," they'll find some happiness in doing what they do.  While this is in the distant future, we can do things now to encourage without pressure.

On numerous occasions, Jason was offered money for doing things that doing them in itself should be its own reward.  We want him to want to spell things correctly; we want him to want to do well in his basketball game.

To alter this mentality of "doing something for something in return," we realized some things: we needed to teach our kids to be athletes; athletes need sportsmanship; sportsmanship is a learned skill.  Not a competitive bone in my body growing up, I had to figure out the do's and don'ts of being a parent audience member, of trying to navigate the culture of sports, of setting an example for the kids, of walking the fine line of encouraging the kids to have fun and the urgency to win.  This article by Dr. Burnett affirmed what I've seen: finding the right motivation is not as easy as it sounds.

It took a football mom to get me to see that we should encourage ALL players and not just our own kids.  In Jason's first season of flag football, I was so excited to see that Jason picked up routes and plays so quickly.  He made a touchdown, and I jumped up from my seat, clapped, and screamed, "GOOOOO JASON!!!"  Immediately after, this more experienced football mom yelled, "Good job, Vikings!"  I realized then that maybe I shouldn't be as excited for just MY player.  She did not say it in so many words, and I may be over-thinking this, but I'm glad she indirectly pointed this out to me.

Of course, give credit to where it's due: Jason was THE leading scorer of the season, and we definitely had a great time watching him at every single game.

In Jesse's first basketball season, he celebrates this shot as if they really kept score.  Although it was in good fun, a part of me kept thinking that he shouldn't gloat so much.  But for now, let's laugh out loud.

Jason leads the line for the post-game high-fives.  This tradition proves that, regardless of a win or loss, appreciating the opposing team's efforts is part of good sportsmanship.

We enjoy their enthusiasm for the little things.  We hope they enjoy whatever choices they make. We know they'll enjoy everything just a little more with intrinsic motivation. Bury "boys will be boys."

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