Moving Forward with Motivation
By Aankita Patel

Motivation, a key concept that most educators hope that each of their student has. Motivation strives you to go beyond the threshold. Motivation promotes curiosity and new findings. Motivation gets you places. Motivation prevents educators from begging students to do well in school…(there maybe some truth to that). I believe that all students are motivated in one way or another. Depending on their age, gender, family, peer groups, interests, and future goals, students are motivated in education at different levels and times. When I reflect back from the past few years of teaching, there are several students who I still think of, and wanting to know how successful they have become after high school. As I think of each of them, I constantly think of “how could I have done better to help them succeed?” This is a question that comes up with every challenging student that I face. I can already think of one of my most challenging student whom I taught last year, Paul. Paul was a very tough student, he had no interest in school, no interest in being friendly (seriously), he had no motivation to work in class, or care about his future, and he was known as one of our schools’ bully. He would just sit in his desk with his hands crossed, would not even pick up a pencil. Why is Paul the way he is? It took me about three months to get to really understand his story. Within the very first weeks of school, I had already written him up, changed his seat, and had made several parent phone calls which I never got any response to, and would plead and begged him to do his work, but that did not work at all (no surprise). I kept a very close eye on him and I knew instantly that there had to be something going on back at home or elsewhere in his life. I contacted his counselor and they were able to give me some details on what was going on. I found that he grew up in a impoverished household, in which he would often take care of his younger brother. His parents were rarely home, so I am assuming that there may have been limited discipline and lack of encouragement. When I saw the bigger picture, I knew where to start…..encouragement. Despite the fact that he had no desire to be in school in general, or had any idea what he wanted to pursue a career in (I would ask him all the time what he wanted to pursue his career in, his response would be “I am stupid, I will not be able to do anything”). Paul was in my culinary arts class and I would often give him words of encouragement and tell him how well he was doing in my class. I gave him space and stopped asking him to complete his work and kind of let him be. It almost felt like I gave up on him, but the me “pleading” him to do his work was not working. It was to the point where I was getting frustrated that he was not completing anything, but yet, I still continued to encourage him and compliment on the good he was doing.

As the weeks progressed, I started seeing him change his attitude in my class, he even came up to me and told me that he really enjoys my class! This was such a delight to hear! To cut the story short, I was able to get to know Paul as a person, not just as my student (it took most of the year to get to this place). I am not exactly sure what perspired him to start working in class and change the way he viewed my class. He later told me that he really enjoys cooking and wanted to go to culinary school and was cooking a lot more at home. Paul found an interest in cooking (intrinsic motivation) to keep doing what he enjoyed to do, and to get better at it! I did find out that he really was not doing well in his other courses and I suggested him to find something that he liked in each class.

When you find a passion in something, you are more motivated to continue to work hard in that area. Paul lacked self-efficacy about his ability to execute certain tasks and behaviors, (as he would constantly call himself “stupid”). Due to his lack of self-efficacy, he did not make good choices, have successful goals, and gave little to no effort in his school work. I personally know that there are classes in high school that you do not like, and may not perform the best. However, there are extrinsic motivators such as good grades, GPA, and graduating, that can lead to doing well in school. In some cases, like Pauls’, he was not getting any other motivation from home that would help him to do better. I truly think that he cared about his extrinsic motivators, but was waiting for them to be triggered. Since I knew he had a younger brother, I would often joke around with him and tell him that he is the older brother, and a role model for his brother. I asked him how he would like to see his brother succeed, and he said something most parents would say, “Do well in school, graduate, and get a good job.” I made him reflect on those words and how he can apply that to his personal life!