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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Motivation Comes In First

Laura, of "Dr. Laura" fame posted in her blog an item about how some students are paid money for doing well in school. Her blog referred to a Fox News item about a school district that was using financial rewards to motivate students to get good grades. ... Why would MONEY make the difference, and not the appreciation of their parents, the respect of their peers, the approval from their teachers, or the mere burst of pride in doing well? The answer is simple: kids these days are not raised to care about appreciation, respect, approval and pride…period! They are brought up to care about celebrity, extravagance, notoriety, freakish attention (think reality shows), infamy as a positive experience, and extreme non-conformity to traditional values. What happens to these kids when the money isn’t there, but there is still the expectation of profound effort and commitment? Certainly teachers, police, firefighters, those in the military, and small shop owners (to name just a few) aren’t putting out their best efforts for the financial reward. A police officer who “collars” a serious bad guy gets a lot of thumps on the back, a night of some beers with fellow colleagues, and a notch toward an eventual promotion in rank. Mostly, he has pride in doing his job well. ... Schools have been eliminating accolades such as high honors at graduation (e.g., valedictorian) so as not to hurt the self-esteem of those who won’t or can’t rise to that occasion. Yet, they want to give money, money, money to those who do. What is THAT message? No one’s feelings are going to be hurt because they didn’t get the money, money, money. Ugh."

I say "Ugh" too. At the heart of the school problem is that so many kids do not take pride in their work. How do you suppose that translates when they get out of school and on the job? I would argue that the most valuable lesson one can learn in school is to take pride in one's work. This story reminds us all that when it comes to learning, motivation may not be everything, but it is way ahead of whatever is in second place (which is probably poor memory skills). I have been teaching for almost 50 years, and I can tell you that positive motivation can overcome bad teachers, bad textbooks, boring subject matter, and almost any obstacle to learning you can think of. Conversely, no matter how hard a school or teacher may try to provide a good learning environment, good student performance is not going to happen without motivation. If people want to learn badly enough, they will surely find a way. True, a few academic subjects may be too advanced for a given level of IQ or pre-requisite learning. But even the slow of wit can learn a lot more than most people think. It may just take longer.

Source:Readin’, ‘Riting, and ….Bribing? June 11, 2009 on 10:32 am In Children, Education, Parenting, Values . Dr. Laura's Blog

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