Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Motivation, Challenge, and Behavior

I'm currently doing a book study of Drive by Daniel Pink with a Voxer group led by Tammie Neil ( @MathNeil). I just finished chapter 5 and it has really gotten me thinking about a lot of things.

I teach at an extremely challenging school: inner city, 98% free-reduced lunch, high minority, high transiency, high truency. If you name a risk factor for poor school performance, we have it in spades. We also have the lowest test scores of the elementary schools in our district. This also translates to a lot of behavior problems. A lot.

Don't get me wrong. I love my school and I love my students. It is my passion and my calling to teach here. But I have a very realistic view of the student population. They have not been taught social skills and most of the modeling they have is less than positive. Violence is the normal in their homes and neighborhoods, so it becomes the normal in their classrooms too.

Many of my amazing, hard-working, professional colleagues struggle with behavior management, and I do too! It's hard! But I have taken up the mission of preaching good lesson planning as a behavior management system. "What? What does lesson planning have to do with behavior? We need to talk about norms and rules and expectations. We need to make color charts and point sheets and treasure boxes." Very few people think I am sincere, and I think Daniel Pink explained exactly why for me today.

"When Motivation 2.0 sought compliance, Motivation 3.0 seeks engagement."

As Pink defines it, Motivation 2.0 is the carrot and the stick, rewards and punishments, motivational system in place in schools (and businesses) since the mid 19th century. That's what I grew up with in school as did the vast majority of my colleagues. That's what we revert to, especially in stressful situations, and every day has some stressful situations.

But Motivation 3.0 is a more efficient and positive motivational system. It focuses on choice, empowerment, challenge. All of those things we who wish to be master teachers strive to incorporate into our classrooms every day. But can it work in a school like mine? Will challenge and choice help these deeply troubled kids? I very strongly and firmly believe yes. I think it is one of my main roles as a teacher to provide my students with instructional experiences that are exciting and challenging, that help lead them toward mastery, that empower them to choose their own learning. And I have found that when my students are most engaged, the frequency and intensity of behavior problems decreases. They are not eliminated, this is not a 100% guarantee, but I know it makes a difference. And my goal is for the lessons and activities that I share here to be those kind of lessons.

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