Tapping Into Motivation

Kaylee has always loved reading. She is voracious. She is spunky. She was bitten by the bug of learning early.

In kindergarten Kaylee was introduced more formally to writing. She ate it up, stapled paper together and got busy. She was a book maker. Kaylee was a scavenger of ideas. She was eager to share this part of herself with her peers, her teachers and her family.

Not everyone is a Kaylee. Some are challenged. Some never get the nudge. But, I believe there is a Kaylee in all of us, a place inside of us screaming to learn. There is a part of us that wants to devour books and write our stories. There is a reason the Kaylees in the world exist. They show us the joy of reading and writing.

Tapping into this world for some children sometimes feels like a daunting task. It feels like there are so many obstacles in the way. There are learning disabilities, poverty, behaviors to tackle, neurological and speech disorders. There is a gamut of reasons students don’t progress on “our timetable.” However, the desire to learn still exists. Just because a student has little fine motor development and struggles to form a letter, does not mean he or she lacks the desire to write. I think sometimes we mistake hurdles that children face for laziness. We don’t see the reason. We see someone unwilling. I refuse to believe that children are lazy. I do believe they can become unmotivated. I also think when these hurdles present themselves we make the mistake of using them as an excuse not to push the writer.

Motivation is half of our battle.

Tapping into a student’s motivation takes time. We need to know students as people and as writers. We need to understand their strengths as much as we understand their struggles. When we look at what a writer can do, we can more efficiently tap into what is next for that student. Not everyone is on the same timetable; there is a spectrum with no clock attached. Recognizing this is what makes us better teachers and helps us get students closer to their developmental potential.

I think the best way to tackle motivation is to allow risks to be taken. Let students try things; sometimes they won’t seem ready. They will show us their capabilities and it is on us to respond to their failures in a nurturing manner. When we allow students to be the captain of their own ship and stand back a little they see themselves as a learner, a reader, a writer. Step back. Watch them sail into new adventures and take themselves on new journeys forward.

How do you motivate students and tap into their interests? What are you doing to create an environment that allows students to take a risk?