In this blog post I continue describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation. 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 this blog post I continue describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation. I have identified ten of these forces, and I will describe one per post over the next few months. 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.
In this blog post I begin describing the forces that nurture intrinsic motivation. There are ten of them, and I will describe one per post over the next few months. 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 rely on extrinsic motivation.
Because of the many problems associated with using rewards and punishments in the classroom, it becomes clear that neither rewarding nor punishing students offers teachers a management approach consistent with quality principles. The choice that so many educators face of whether to emphasize punishments or rewards in their classrooms is not really a choice at all. Both methods are extrinsic. Both seek to control the actions of students based on the promise that if you do this, this will happen to you, and, as a result, present a similar array of problems. Both rest on the assumptions of Theory X put forth by Douglas McGregor (described in Blog Post #5), and both exist because they are believed to be necessary to maintain order and effort.
In my most recent posts I have been talking about the choices we have available to us when it comes to managing our students. One choice is rooted in Douglas McGragorâ€™s Theory X (described in previous post) and requires the use of rewards and/or punishments to control student behavior and effort due to the belief that students dislike work and will avoid it if they can. The other choice is rooted in Theory Y and takes advantage of the idea that students want to work hard and will commit themselves fully to objectives that mean something to them.
In my most recent blog post I described the two main choices we have as teachers in managing our students. The first choice is the most traditional and the most common, and it relies on the use of extrinsic motivation, namely rewards and punishments. Though this choice is the one most of us learn in our credential programs, read about in our textbooks, and observe in our student teaching assignments, extrinsic motivation does nothing more than produce temporary obedience and carries with it a large cost because it undermines many of the worthwhile ideals and priorities we strive 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.
I first gave serious thought to becoming a teacher in 1992 during my final semester as a sociology major at the University of Virginia. I took a Sociology of Education course and loved every minute of it. In class we discussed and analyzed American schooling in a way that was completely new and exciting to me. When I graduated, I didnâ€™t know what I wanted to do for a living, but teaching was increasingly on my mind as a potential option.
I worked a bunch of part-time jobs back home in Los Angeles in the year that followed while I figured out my next step. By far, my favorite job was working as a teacherâ€™s aide at Overland Avenue School. I split my time between two fifth grade classes and did yard duty before school and during recess. I loved working with the kids, and I was fascinated by the innerworkings of an elementary school classroom. I even loved yard duty. Each day after work I read all the education books I could get my hands on. Theodore Sizerâ€™s well-known Horace trilogy was especially influential.
One of the fifth grade teachers knew I had a growing interest in pursuing a career as an educator, and she gave me many extra responsibilities, including the opportunity to teach lessons to the class. I will forever be grateful for these opportunities because they gave me a strong sense of how fulfilling and interesting teaching could be. At the time a student-teacher from UCLA was working in the same class, and I learned about the UCLA Teacher Education Program from her and her field coordinator. By the Spring, I decided to apply to that program and finally live out my dream of attending the school that was only a mile or so away from my childhood home.
There were many pivotal moments during my year at UCLA that shaped my development as a person and as a teacher enormously. One came after I taught a lesson as part of my first student teaching placement. I was sitting outside the room with one of my supervisors, Sharon, who had come to evaluate me that day. Our conversation centered on classroom management, a topic in which I had become quite interested.