If you’re an educator, student, or parent, there’s only one thing on your mind right now: SCHOOL.

In addition to new clothes and necessary supplies, school brings back anxiety for all.

Educator: Will I be more organized this year?

Student: Will my new teachers like me?

Parents: Will my kiddos do their homework/pay attention/pass/excel this year?

All worries valid, but all worries unfortunately being given too much energy. As an educator myself, one of the things we always meet, regardless of where and what we teach, is lack of student motivation.

We are constantly asking ourselves, “How do we motivate the unmotivated?”

A good friend of mine is taking a graduate-level educational psychology course. Below is her response to the first assignment, which asked students to describe a student with motivational issues. In a hilarious and poignant self-confessional, she describes her own motivational issues.

Brilliant. Thanks B!

She says she hates school and has written notes to be excused from classes since she was in 7th grade. There is no record of her parent’s signatures on file because she has signed her own excuse blanks since she was in 4th grade. Her parents expect her to get good grades but can’t help her with her homework. She takes accelerated classes and is relatively popular but still feels like an outsider. Both her mom and first step-mom are English teachers. Her father and step-father never went to college. Her dad cheated on her mom and her step-mom and remarried again when she was 14. Her newest step-mom has no maternal instinct and can’t even help her with English.

She actually attends a few classes willingly – math (even when she dislikes the teacher), science (when it isn’t rote memorization like Biology – ugh – but dissection was great), English literature (novels and poetry are the best), art (especially ceramics, wood-working, and metal), and physical education (any sport is great, even basketball though she is only 5’2”) – but avoids all of the classes which rely on memorization or simply reading a book and regurgitating information whenever possible. When she skips school she does homework, or reads a book for fun, outside usually near a creek or in the woods. When she is in a particularly boring class, like health education or driver’s education, she stares out the window and daydreams but can still answer questions when called upon which infuriates her teachers. Sometimes she does other homework in these classes but that makes the teachers angry as well.

Many subjects come easily to her but she prefers classes that are a challenge. She feels guilty if she does well on a test when she doesn’t study. She gets good grades, B+s and above, even in classes she avoids/cuts but she hides her exams so that no one will see that she got a good grade. She knows that smart kids get picked on and plays dumb very well. In fact, she was known as an airhead all through junior high until that fateful day when her algebra teacher revealed that she had outscored all other students, including the high school students, on a standardized math test. A chauvinistic and arrogant male classmate jumped up and yelled, “But she’s an airhead!” making matters worse. She was angry but proud that her charade had worked. Still, she wished she were invisible and wanted to curl up and hide. She hates standing out and tries to blend in wherever she goes. She is not openly rebellious but sometimes wishes that she were.

She is a model student except for being truant and for making quiet, funny comments to her few close friends in her class. She graduated 18th in her class of 512 but doesn’t consider it an accomplishment at all. It wasn’t hard. She almost didn’t graduate because she missed 47 days her senior year. Plus, she was absent on the day everyone rehearsed, were assigned seats, and had their photo taken and was almost not allowed to walk or participate in the ceremony.

She loves to learn but lacks ambition. She is expected to go to college and knows that she will but has no idea what she will study. Her guidance counselor tells her she has the aptitude to be anything she wants.

Twenty plus years later with two master degrees and a PhD underway, she still doesn’t know what she wants to be and lacks the motivation to do what she despises – regurgitating information to prove that she can critically evaluate and synthesize what she has read – but why? She fears becoming one of them – the academics without soul or passion who research what they cannot experience for themselves. She fears success and failure simultaneously. She feels trapped with no way out but letting go of who she is.

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