Monday, January 16, 2012

Motivation - Slice of Life

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

Motivation is something I think a lot about. What motivates us? What motivates my students? What do you do when motivation is gone? How do I motivate myself?

A few years ago I read Todd Whitaker’s book What Great Teachers Do Differently. This past year I was assigned his book geared towards principals. Both books are strikingly similar in relation to praise and motivation. He says praise needs to be, “authentic, specific, immediate, clean, and private.” I think all too often I have fallen back on the ease of complimenting my entire class, telling them I appreciate them. Or writing “good job” on top of their papers. Really, this does not help to motivate my students. Getting to know them, taking an interest in their lives, telling them when you see them going above and beyond – that is what is the key. The problem with that? It takes time, just like anything worthwhile. I need to find the time again.

And sometimes I need to find the motivation for myself. Not for work, necessarily. I’m pretty driven there. I need to find the motivation to take care of myself. To make exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep a priority. I’ve begun this year putting exercise in the forefront. I’m treading carefully, I tend to get burnt out if I jump into something and overdo it so I’m aiming for some type of exercise every other day. My mind tries to tell me that I don’t have the time, I can just get caught up tomorrow, but I’ve found what motivates me. I listen to podcasts. I know – not your typical running type of music – but it works for me. I love Katie Davis’s podcasts about Kid Lit. I enjoy listening to Franki Sibberson on her Choice Literacy podcasts. And Franki is also another part of my motivation; I know I am not alone on this journey. She is running too and I’ll be seeing her in five short months. I want to run in a crazy Team Sparkle skirt at our conference this summer. So, I jump on the treadmill.

Thinking about myself and what motivates me to run, I think back to my students. Those hard to motivate kids that I can’t ever find that carrot for. What gets me running? Someone to cheer me on. Something I love waiting for me there. Gentle but reachable expectations. Someone who gives me specific and private praise and names what I’m doing well. A good feeling about what I’ve done. I need to ensure that the environment in my classroom is set up to motivate my kids and for them to motivate themselves. With that, we can reach our goals.