When I was a young teacher, I remember a parent saying to me, “My child just loves to come to school. You’ve instilled a love of learning in him.” I felt rewarded and appreciated. Of course, I was teaching first grade and most of what we did all day was pretty darned fun, so it wasn’t much of an accomplishment.
Dedicated middle- and high-school teachers don’t often receive that same validation. Kids that age don’t jump out of bed in a rush to get to school and work on their calculus or biology. But it does raise the questions of what motivates students, and do their teachers have anything at all to do with it?
We can be fairly sure that a poorly performing teacher can singlehandedly cause their students so much frustration and confusion that they will give up trying to be successful in school. It’s also fairly certain that if a teacher is organized and clearly states the requirements to get a particular grade, this allows students some control over their performance and helps teach them how to plan ahead for success.
How would this look in a classroom? Providing a scoring rubric in advance for a project or essay – or making one together. Giving out a list of requirements for getting a certain grade in a class. Letting students know the percentages of the overall grade various items represent, like tests, homework, and class work.
It seems to me kids like things a lot more – whether at home or in a more formal classroom environment—when they have a sense of ownership about their destiny. Come to think of it, I do too.