After sharing a story in last weekâ€™s blog post about the â€œbird signalâ€ I used with a former student in an attempt to inspire him to be his very best, I return this week to describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation. This post introduces the 7th of 10 forces I have identified that bring out the best in children by appealing to the best in them.
Instead of trying to gain temporary obedience from our students through the use of rewards and punishments, these forces help us in our attempts to win our studentsâ€™ hearts and minds and enlist a genuine commitment to the worthwhile aims and objectives we are trying to promote in our classrooms.
In my first few blog posts I described the influences that shaped my educational philosophy and impacted my approach to teaching in the early stages of my career. In future posts I will continue describing my journey, but Iâ€™d like to take a break from this endeavor and jump ahead 15 or so years to something that happened in my classroom this past Thursday.
Last Thursday was one of those days that all teachers experience. Almost from the opening bell, things just seemed to be a bit off with my students. Everything seemed to be a struggle. Every time we went out for recess or lunch, kids were returning in tears, arguing, and even getting involved in physical altercations. Inside the class the high level of focus that I am fortunate enough to witness on a consistent basis simply wasnâ€™t there. More students were off task than usual, many lessons and activities didnâ€™t proceed according to plan, and gaining and maintaining my studentsâ€™ attention was difficult.
It is during these times when we, as teachers, have to dig deep, find our patience, and remember what it is that we are trying to promote in our classrooms. When things appear to be falling apart around us, we have to decide how we are going to keep everything together.
Sometimes itâ€™s hard for me to believe that a statistician who was trained in mathematics, physics, and engineering and who did his most important work overseas approximately a half century ago has had more impact on my development as an elementary educator than anybody else.
But thatâ€™s exactly what happened.
After reading William Glasserâ€™s The Quality School early in my second year of teaching, I was hungry to learn more about the educational approach he described (and that I described in my previous blog post). So, I headed straight to W. Edwards Deming, the man whose work heavily influenced Glasserâ€™s.
Like many young teachers, I was eager to earn graduate units to move up on my districtâ€™s pay scale. To accumulate the greatest number of units in the least amount of time, each quarter I enrolled in an after-school class designed for working teachers. The classes met one night a week and featured a different presenter each time. On some evenings I would come away with useful information; on others I wouldnâ€™t. One night a principal from my district gave a presentation that at first didnâ€™t appear especially applicable to my teaching situation. Then, as my classmates and I were packing our belongings and preparing to leave, he shared a list of book recommendations. Fortunately for me, I was still paying attention.
On that list was William Glasserâ€™s The Quality School.
Discovering that book was my first lucky break.