Focusing on and emphasizing these forces helps teachers create an engaging, productive classroom environment that brings out the best in students. For teachers who may be a bit nervous about the prospect of managing a group of children without relying on rewards and punishments, these forces offer a far more powerful, far more genuine alternative to traditional classroom management approaches that are rooted in Douglas McGregorâ€™s Theory X and depend on extrinsic motivation.
These forces work synergistically to create an environment where quality can flourish. No extrinsic motivators, either alone or in combination, can come close to producing such results. No student has ever been rewarded or punished into excellence. True success comes only when we bring out the very best in our students. And in order for us to bring the best out of our students, we must appeal to the best in them. These forces do just that.
In addition to promoting student desire to engage in specific tasks, these forces benefit a classroom more generally. Collectively, they build morale and enthusiasm for learning, enhance self-esteem, deepen the sense of connection individuals feel to the classroom and to one another, and increase student willingness to put forth sustained effort.
Nurturing Force #5: Success
Closely related to the idea of challenge (Nurturing Force #4) is that of success. Nothing motivates like success, and nothing de-motivates like failure. Finding an optimal degree of challenge for each of our students increases the likelihood that they will be successful. As teachers, we must do everything in our power to find a way for every child to achieve some degree of academic success initially, no matter how far away they may be from mastering year-end standards.
Initial success keeps intrinsic motivation alive and begins to build confidence. Once students realize their first success, they will develop an appetite for more. The key is getting that first one. Some of the kids who enter our rooms in September may have never experienced academic success before and may be on the verge of giving up. We canâ€™t let this happen.
We must keep them in the game.
For example, if an incoming fourth grader doesnâ€™t read fluently, then we canâ€™t start him with a fourth grade text; he would fail. Instead, we may choose to focus on the sounds of each letter of the alphabet. Letâ€™s assume the student knew these sounds. Now, rather than beginning the year experiencing immediate failure, he encounters success. We, by no means, stop at this point or lower standards for him. We simply select a different entry point because we understand that success builds on itself. Of course, a tremendously demanding road still awaits this child, but success is the key to ensuring that he decides to make the trip.
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