Sunday, May 3, 2009


We can't expect students to know about things they've never been exposed to. Maybe that doesn't sounds like an amazing revelation, but it is indeed the root of the one problem that I've heard teachers define as being the least fixable: motivation.

When I was younger, my brother and my dad watched sports on TV on occasion. I used to go to professional baseball games as a rare treat, but even then I was mostly just in it for the snacks. ;) As I was getting older, I didn't have the right body attributes necessary to make me very skilled in P.E. based sports nor was I befriended by those who shared any interest. In fact, it wasn't until I was 24 years old that I began to associate with people who actually took a vested interest in the sports world. I started to play a baseball simulation game and engage in conversations with coworkers only to find that I actually LOVE learning about sports. I like the numbers and the talent and the fan sociology behind it all. I find myself making the occasional sports analogy and all of a sudden I'm using a vocabulary that was once very much foreign to me.

Some people are intrinsically motivated. That is a lucky character trait that I feel blessed to have. Regardless, I'm pretty sure that, throughout life, I learned the things that I was supposed to be motivated in the way most people do: I was exposed to them. I watched "proper" ambitions modeled and followed suit. How was I supposed to know that I should like sports when my physical attributes did not suggest an aptitude and there was no clear model in my life who felt the need to sit down and explain to me their significance?

This is the exact same barrier that faces our students. There will always be those who, regardless of their situation, will seek out information for themselves. As for the rest of them, there needs to be guidance...lots and lots of guidance. If our students are not exposed to technology, how can we raise up those few students who will become instrumental in it's advancement? If students are only exposed to academics, who will become masters of their craft in arts and athletics? There are so many things that I am good at that I didn't even know existed when I was younger (especially around the time in life when I was asked to choose a career path). It is our responsibility as educators to pull from every single resource that we can get our hands on, so that students can reach their real potential and attain the motivation necessary (because they were inspired by something) to invest themselves in something that they are passionate about.

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