Okay, so we know without a doubt that some characteristics are incredibly beneficial for life in the 21st century. Among these is a habit of learning something new at every opportunity. An example is learning a new thing through online college classes. This love for learning (notice how I avoid the overused cliche: “lifelong learning”?) has been identified again and again as critical to success in our knowledge-based economy.
But, how do we educators instill this habit in the minds of our students?
Sometimes it feels like what I imagine Physical Education teachers go through when they try to combat obesity and unhealthy eating habits by stressing the importance of exercise and nutrition in their classrooms. I don’t think that many children change their ways as a result of this instruction, because the real factors that contribute to obesity begin at home and in a child’s genes.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not claiming that we teachers can’t impact our students, either in their health or their learning, but rather we have to be more coordinated. Hollywood might think that a single teacher in a single year might be able to change the life of a child, but in reality it takes a dozens of teachers and many years to truly change the trajectory of a student.
And there’s the rub. I can decide to spend every available moment modeling adult learning for my students and I can talk about its importance with them everyday. I can teach lessons that help them understand how their future can be better if they never stop learning.
But, I can’t make them learn. Right?
That used to be my attitude, but lately I’ve become almost obsessed with the idea of trying to find a way to motivate those students who can’t find their own “juice”. It’s been said that the best motivator is an engaging lesson, but all veteran teachers know that even the most engaging lesson is not capable of reaching those who have significant challenges in their lives. I’ve sought (and followed) the advice of Larry Ferlazzo and others. I’ve dug deep and talked to those students in an effort to get to the cause of their lack of motivation.
Can anyone sympathize?