Friday, March 08, 2013

Just Where is the Motivation?

And today, I'm not going to talk about my motivation....or lack thereof.

I think I may have figured out why I've been having such a hard time writing my blog for the past couple of weeks.  I think a lot of it has to do with my frustration level.  Mix together house hunting, Hubby having dental surgery, and my troubles at school (that I'm about to discuss) and it's one concoction for one very cranky, frustrated me.

I've spoken quite a bit about the house hunting and the surgery... but what I haven't spoken about is my frustration level stemming from my classroom, lately.

For some strange reason, many of the kids in my classroom have decided that March is close enough to the end of the school year for them to pack their bags and get ready for summer vacation.  They're done.  Finished.  Turned off and tuned out.

I don't get it.

When I was in school, I don't ever remember being so lack luster about my grades or my work ethic or trying my best.  In fact, the mere sight of a B on a paper or a report card opened up the flood gates from my eyes - and I cried like a baby.  A 'B' on an assignment wasn't the end of the world, it's not even that bad of a grade - but it wasn't good enough for me.

And, yeah OK, I was a pretty smart student.  I was one of those kids who made good grades pretty easily.  I never really struggled that much, and didn't have to spend all my time with my head in a book in order to make good grades.  I could have a test, not crack a single book to study, and still make an A.  I could have a paper due a week later, wait until the night before it was due, knock it out in about an hour, and make a good grade on it.

But, I went to school with kids that struggled.  They found a lot of work tough, or had to study a lot, or required added assistant during our Encore tutoring classes.  And did that stop them from trying?  Not at all.  Pretty much every kid I went to school with wanted good grades.  Some were motivated by different reasons...they wanted to play sports or be in extra-curricular activities and bad grades were an automatic elimination from that possibility.  Some just didn't want to risk the thought of people thinking they were stupid.

Making bad grades when I went to school just didn't happen that much... because it wasn't OK or socially accepted or "cool" to be a failing student.

Sure, there were a few that just didn't give a flying crap what their grades were.  But, those kids were minimal compared to the grade level as a whole.

I just don't know why that same pride isn't as apparent now.

For the most part, this year I've been so proud of the kids in my classes.  I have the honor of teaching those kids that are below grade level and need as much assistance as they can get.  Just a few months ago, that was inspiration enough for these kids.  They weren't happy with being labeled as "below grade level".  They had drive and motivation to break through that barrier.

But in the last few weeks, all of that motivation has evaporated.  Disappeared.  Disintegrated.

And it's not just the kids that are below grade level.  It has been a popular rift through the entire grade level.  Fail a paper?  No biggie.  Have an assignment due in 30 minutes?  They'll do it in 5 without even cracking the book that will give them all the answers.  Get to go to a party if you reach your reading goal?  Yeah, no thanks...reading is boring.  Fail a paper and be given the opportunity to redo it?  That's just too much work, they'll take the failing grade.  Made all A's and B's the first two quarters but are now making C's and D's?  Who cares?

I Just. Don't. Get. It.

After Christmas, we started a reward incentive called Fun Friday.  Each Friday afternoon, the kids that completed all of their work and homework, didn't get in to trouble for any reason, and just gave their best were rewarded with an extra recess and snacks on Friday afternoon.  The first few times, the majority of the grade level participated... but that number has started to dwindle rapidly over the past several weeks.  I think we have a whooping 10-15 students out of 63 attending today.

Instead of having one teacher to watch over "study hall" (the place the kids who aren't going to Fun Friday go) we now have to have 2 teachers doing it...and one teacher gets to do Fun Friday with the minuet amount of kids that will be going outside.

Yesterday, I announced the kids who would be attending the reading goal party as our quarter comes to an end today.  There were 4.  Yes.  Four.  Four kids out of twenty reached their reading goal that every student had 9 weeks to reach.  And when I did call out the only 4 students, the look on their faces was one of shame and embarrassment.  They weren't full of pride for doing what they were supposed to do...they were pretty much upset because I had called them out as being good students and meeting their expectations.  Which isn't really their fault, I suppose.  When the rest of the class is rolling their eyes or sniggering away about them being the "goody goodies".

All I ever wanted to do when I became a teacher is fill my kids with hope and desire and inspiration.  I wanted to make them believe that anything they ever want to do is possible.  It's the main reason I asked to work with the kids that were below grade level, because I didn't want those kids to ever feel like their school journey was hopeless.  I explain to them every day how much progress they can make if we just fill in the gaps that they've somehow missed along the way - and that just because they struggle a little now doesn't mean they will always struggle.

One thing I never thought I'd be fighting is the struggle just to motivate these kids.

And, being the teacher I am, it frustrates me to no end.  It angers me.  Why?  Because I care so darn much.

I actually told my students the other day that my biggest dream as a teacher was not to teach kids.  It was to have the dream that 15-20 years from now, my past students would start dwindling back to my classroom to tell me how great their life has been.  Some will own their own companies.  Some will be famous.  Some will have become lawyers and doctors and teachers.  Some will have gone on to raise a family and work hard every day to make sure their kids get the wonderful education that they once received so that their own children can go on to fulfill their dreams.

Well, things may not be working out for me right now.  But being the teacher I am also means I won't give up on my dream.  If they're not motivated or inspired right now - then I'm just going to have to figure out what I can do to change it.  What those kids don't realize is that I would go to Hell and back to make sure that their year with me means important.

And so that's just what I'm going to do.




  1. After teaching for years, my coworkers and I experienced what you may be experiencing right now: "March Madness". :) And, like you mentioned, there doesn't seem to be a reason or cause...just a bump in the year with kids being tired of work, behavior problems arising, etc. We all noticed that this happened in March, hence we coined the term. The GOOD news is, that this usually shakes off after a couple of weeks. They come back around. :) It sounds like you are doing everything right!

  2. Jo, I agree about the March Madness thing, too. Several of my colleagues have told me the same thing, and I am also hoping that it is just a temporary thing. It is discouraging when they do not seem to care! My class seems the same way.

    I have been trying Class Dojo lately, and that seems to help some, too.


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