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Motivating the Unmotivated

Motivating the Unmotivated

26 February, 2016

Five components that will surely motivate students:

  1. Focus

Teachers must be ready, willing, and able to focus primarily on motivation. Many valuable supplemental educational and social programs are available. But classroom learning and supplemental programs will have greatly diminished value (or become completely valueless) if students are unwilling to participate. Unmotivated students are unlikely to embrace classroom learning or participate in tutoring, homework help, or traditional mentoring programs.

  1. Time Commitment

Teachers and administrators are mindful and even protective of curriculum time. However, a strategy requiring only 15 minutes per week can provide an excellent return on time invested. And considering the amount of time wasted on disciplining unruly, unmotivated students, a 15-minute-per-week investment in motivation will result in a net increase in actual teaching time.

  1. Effective Motivators

Any successful motivation strategy requires an effective motivator. A story circulating around the internet tells of a father bringing his daughter to a school function. The daughter, afraid of being embarrassed by her father, pleaded, “Dad, whatever you do, don’t sing.” The father was Billy Joel. Whether or not this story is true, the sentiment is certainly believable. No matter who the parents or guardians are, their admonitions or offers of assistance are often disregarded. If teachers and administrators are fortunate to have respectful, pliable students, a specific motivation strategy is unnecessary. However, in chronically unruly classrooms and/or those with unmotivated, underperforming students, the wishes of adult authority figures are disregarded. Unfortunately this often rises to the level of disrespect and defiance. However, academically accomplished high school students are powerful role models. By virtue of their being older, they are automatically “cool” and respected. They are viewed as older peers and are therefore easy to relate to — particularly if they share common interests.

  1. Reinforcement through Repetition

The Energizer Bunny may keep going and going. However, a motivation strategy for elementary and middle school students requires repetitive reinforcement. Teachers must include this piece of the strategy if they hope to be effective.

  1. Fun for the Students

The not-so-secret ingredient for any motivational activity is making sure that it’s fun. As we’re about to see, video chatting like through Skype, Facetime, or other media is fun. This is an activity that students look forward to participating in.

A Unique Motivational Program

These five components are at the core of a resource that was developed for elementary and middle school teachers that also functions as a community service opportunity for high school students. The program, called On Giants’ Shoulders, advocates a strategy for repetitively motivating underperforming elementary and middle school students to respect their teachers, peers, schools, and the learning process using 15-minute, once-per-week online chats with academically accomplished high school students who appreciate the value of education.

The students are paired according to interests (sports, music, art, dance, etc.). For example, a member of the high school football team is paired with a student who loves football. A group of three older/younger student pairs share a computer or tablet for the weekly online chat. With only five computers, 15 older/younger student pairs can be accommodated in 15 minutes, 30 student pairs in 30 minutes, etc.

The implementation process is simple. High school students start a branch of OGS in the same manner they would any other school club. The students are supervised by teachers or faculty members in each school, as is the case in any school activity.

Is 15 minutes every week really enough? The sole purpose of this program is to motivate students interacting with engaged older peers. As a result, the younger students will be more willing to put in the time required for more time-consuming activities, such as classroom learning, tutoring, homework help, or Big Brother/Big Sister type mentoring programs.

Benefits for elementary students and schools

Stimulates motivation

Enhances students communication skills

Encourages respect for teachers and school

Encourages respect for the learning process

Provides recognition for success and attempts to succeed

Counters low self-expectations

It reduces the time wasted on disciplining students

Teaches computer skills

Fun and exciting for students

Minimal time commitment and easy to implement

Benefits for high school students and schools

Teaches responsibility and leadership

Provides a valuable community service

Provides a resume-worthy activity when applying to colleges and future employment

Provides potential positive coverage of the school or students by local television, radio, and other news media

Provides a dynamic new relationship between the partnered schools

Minimal time commitment and easy to implement

On Giants’ Shoulders is a nonprofit organization — there are never fees or costs of any kind. Implementation forms, instructional videos, and emailed answers to specific questions are available through the site.

Some feedback from a middle school teacher indicated that the program provided something special for her kids which was so important, especially for the less motivated ones, because it gave them something to look forward to every week. And since this model is internet based, partner schools can be across the street or across the country. One teacher stated: “Our students loved meeting and talking with older students and from another area (of the country)”. A high school student said, “We loved the chats and are so happy to restart OGS this coming year.”