The power of motivation in a class

In a heated argument with a colleague on the issue of inspiration in education, she observed that education–as a system–is not as broken as we fear, but that we’ve just failed to inspire students and teachers. At first glance I disagreed, thinking that inspiration was more an effect than a cause. But the more I thought about it, the more I became aware of how much of a lack it is in our classrooms.

Is it possible that one of your students is failing your subject because of some tiny bits of negative comments you always use in class? Could you be having a frantic hide and seek game with your students over homework because you probably did not emphasize the relevance of the work in real life? Do you ever wonder if your dull passive class is caused by the fact that students are just not motivated?

Too many accusations and you are probably asking yourself:  why don’t students come to school inspired to learn in the first place? Is it the content? Is it all really that bad? Is it the testing? Is it the lack of authenticity of the work we ask them to do? Whatever the case, teachers spend more time with the students, and it is our responsibility to keep them motivated.

If you want to be a great educator, you must connect with your pupils and reach them on multiple levels because the best teachers are committed to their students’ well-being both inside and outside the classroom. By forging strong relationships, educators are able to affect virtually every aspect of their students’ lives, teaching them the important life lessons that will help them succeed beyond assignments and classroom tests.

Students look to teachers for approval and positive reinforcement, and are more likely to be enthusiastic about learning if they feel their work is recognized and valued. You should encourage open communication and free thinking with your students to make them feel important. Praise your students often. Recognize them for their contributions. If your classroom is a friendly place where students feel heard and respected, they will be more eager to learn. A “good job” or “nice work” can go a long way.

While at it, get creative. Avoid monotony by changing around the structure of your class. Teach through games and discussions instead of lectures; encourage students to debate and enrich the subject matter with visual aids, like colorful charts, diagrams and videos. You can even show a movie that effectively illustrates a topic or theme. Your physical classroom should never be boring: use posters, models, student projects and seasonal themes to decorate your classroom, and create a warm, stimulating environment.

Finally, drawing connections to real life always works magic. If students do not believe that what they’re learning is important, they won’t want to learn, so it’s important to demonstrate how the subject relates to them. If you’re teaching algebra, take some time to research how it is utilized practically for example, in engineering and share your findings with your students. Showing them that a subject is used every day by “real” people gives it new importance. They may never be excited about algebra but if they see how it applies to them, they may be motivated to learn attentively.

The writer is a Language Consultant