ETAD, Learning, Motivation, Professional Development, Teaching and Instruction

Courage

By Krissy Venosdale retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/venosdale/6338621319/

Courage. It is defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty” (Merriam Webster) It takes courage to be in education. It takes courage because you have to be willing to not only celebrate your successes as an educator but to also dig deeply into your failures. You have to be willing to turn over the “rocks” that data presents, look carefully at what is underneath and embrace the opportunities to learn and grow that each dark spot represents.

It is hard. It is much easier to walk by the dark spots…pretend that they are not there and carry on like you never saw them. To deny their very existence.

It takes time. Time to look into the darkness, look at its features, interpret what it is saying, find trends, ask questions, reflect, discuss, pursue and think.

It needs vision. To imagine the possibilities, think outside of the “way we have always done it”, dream, create, recreate, see, re-see and explore.

It takes nerve. Nerve to try something new…not knowing if it will succeed. Nerve to stand in front of a group of learners and ask them to try something different. Nerve to admit when it is not working and ask why. Nerve to question. Nerve to try.

It is made stronger by perseverance. The desire to never give up. The willingness to continue pushing forward…pushing yourself, your learners, your colleagues. We can NOT stop learning and learning is stopped when we are reluctant to look at the whole picture the data provides. Learning is stopped when we close our eyes to things that are not working, and not supporting growth. By stopping our learning we stop our ability to solve problems.

It takes strength, mental dedication and heart. We have to be willing to speak, listen, think, and engage in a situation in order to make change happen. Sitting back and waiting for others to solve problems or tell us what to do diminishes our power, our control and our ability to really make a difference. We need to be willing to look at the darkness, acknowledge its existence, and meet it head on. We need to be a part of the solution.

It is driven by passion. It is the passion that makes us do what we need to do. It helps us carry on in the face of darkness, hardship, and uncomfortable situations. This passion is rooted not just in learning but in our learners. As educators we need to have passion to support our students in their learning journey, cultivate dreams, open opportunities and honour individuals.

It requires forgiveness. Forgiveness of others who are unwilling or unable to look into the darkness. Forgiveness of yourself when you fail to show courage, through what you do or what you choose not to do. Forgiveness that will allow you to regroup, refocus and remember that tomorrow is another day to show courage in the face of darkness because our learners are always worth it! It takes courage.

You can’t have any successes unless you can accept failure. ~George Cukor

ETAD, Learning, Motivation, Teaching and Instruction

Creating Motivation

Motivation is simply the desire to do things…be it to exercise, play, create or learn, motivation is what drives us to do the things we do.  Student motivation is a critical ingredient in learning.  Students need to want to actively participate and engage in their learning in order for it to occur.  Without motivation even the strongest students can fail to learn.  It is often easy to put the full responsibility for motivation on the student…after all it lives within them. However, students are not the only ones who have responsibility for motivation within our classrooms.  Teachers NEED to accept some of the responsibility as well.  Sir Ken Robinson compares teachers to gardeners in a way that is not only eloquent but also thought-provoking.   Gardeners add elements such as water, fertilizer, sun or shade to encourage plants to grow.  They do not make the plant grow…the plant does that itself.  Gardeners creates the conditions that can allow the plant to flourish.   Teachers also add ingredients through both content and process that create conditions for students to feel motivated and where learning can flourish.  Given the right conditions any learner can and will grow.  

Great teachers inspire motivation and learning.  They create environments where learners feel empowered, impassioned, and engaged.  They know their students, they know their content and they know how to motivate.   Up until a few years ago I thought motivation came exclusively from the content of my curriculum.  My learners were always motivated when it was time to learn about dinosaurs or study the oceans.  They were much less motivated when we were learning about adding or subtracting.  I had adopted and shared with my students attitude of “this too shall pass” and “grin and bear it”.  But what if I had thought like a gardener?  What if I would have said this the “soil” I have so what ingredients can I add to make my plants flourish? 

I believe that John Keller’s ARCS Model holds valuable insight into creating an environment that can inspire student motivation to learn.  Keller identifies four essential conditions:

AAttention What will grab students’ attention, arouse their curiosity and peak their interest?  This may come from the content but it can also come from the processes we use to teach.  Inquiry, problem solving, collaborative learning and choice can be very effective in motivating students to want to engage in learning.  

RRelevance  What is the link between the learning and the learners’ needs, interests, and motives?  Why would they want or need to learn this?  Just like in attention, relevance can come from the content and/or the processes we use.  Students may see a direct link between what we are teaching and their lives outside of the school.  They might also see relevance in opportunities that allow them to engage with others and socially construct their learning.   

CConfidence What can be put in place to help the learner feel like they can succeed in the task?  What can make them feel like they have something to contribute? This is where the teacher really needs to know the students.  Know their strengths and capitalize on them.  Know their weaknesses and support them.  Create an environment where “I think I can” is the motto.

SSatisfaction How can we celebrate the learning? the learner? the contributions that created success?  Sometimes this celebration can simply happen inside of the learner as they acknowledge a job well done.  Sometimes we as teacher need to create the conditions where this celebration can happen out loud.  Either way we need make time to honor the learning and the accomplishments of the learner. 

Growth is possible at anytime if the conditions are right.