Monday, September 21, 2009

Motivating Students

I'm loving this idea by J Krause.

I remember my days as a high school student. I was about as lazy and cocky as it was possible for a high school student to be, yes I know that is saying a lot. I did the minimum amount of work necessary to pass and probably less than that on many occasions. I did however pass, though sometimes I think just because the school didn't want to deal with me one more year.

This may be good or bad depending on your point of view.
It's good, because evidently I generally have a better grasp of the knowledge and skills that make up the high school curriculum than the average high school student. I personally don't see the harm in graduating from high school if you have the knowledge and skills high school is supposed to teach.

It's bad because I never learned what to do when my limits were tested. I was never held back because of my lack of effort. I might have been given a poor grade, but never held back.

After high school I went off to college. I struggled a bit with calculus, but eventually figured it out. Beyond that I muddled my way through just like I did in high school, by showing up to class taking notes and reading the books. I didn't put much effort into my homework, I simply depended on my ability to pass tests to get me through. For the most part, my amazing ability to pass a test without studying served me well.

There was one professor however who refused to let me slide like I had done for the past 15 years. He made it a point to give me low grades on every paper I wrote unless I spent hours each week writing and rewriting with him in his office. I didn't learn anything. I quit trying and I failed that class. The next semester I took it again, but withdrew and eventually dropped out of college thanks to the influence of that one professor.

Was I a failure? Did my history of never needing to struggle doom me to fail? Did that professor fail me as a student? Did my high school fail me by not preparing me for the true rigors of college or professional life? Did I fail myself with my own lack of passion and willingness to take the easy way out? These are questions I ponder on occasion.

Of course today many students have the option of taking AP classes, or college credit classes, but even if I those were available for me then I probably wouldn't have taken the opportunity. Honestly, I was lazy. I didn't see a need to do more than what was asked at that particular time. Don't get me wrong I loved to learn, I just didn't see the purpose of proving it to my teachers.

I don't know if J. Krause's experiment would have prepared me any better for what future college life held for me. I do know that if that one professor had approached me as a student full of promise who needed molding instead of a lazy good for nothing punk I like to think I would have chosen to learn instead of run away.

So Mr(s). Krause good luck to you and your students. I think this class will teach some few students to learn. It won't work for every student and I hope not every teacher follows this idea, but I hope one or two do so every year, if only to make sure to give all students the opportunity to shine.
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