“Students are motivated and engaged when they believe
that standards are relevant, when they have choice, when
they have relationships with teachers, when they have
opportunities to collaborate with peers, when teachers
model effective social and academic behaviors, and when
schools nurture a growth mindset.”
We can have a significant impact on student motivation if we accept responsibility for engaging students. We need to get away from measuring success simply by what we do as educators and more towards what they receive as students and learners. I knew my challenge at the ballpark was similar. There had to be a way to engage the folks in front of us and build a positive connection.
I watched both the game and the two people for the first couple of innings and noticed that they seemed to know a lot of the people working at the ballpark as well as some of the other fans in our section. I knew he would have a lot of stories to tell and at an appropriate moment, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to share his favorite Wrigley moment. He gave me a look that I initially interpreted as annoyance but was merely him running through his memory bank. He told me he was likely one of the few people there who had been to the park the last time the Cubs were in the World Series. “Granted”, he said, “I was only 18 months old and in a stroller, but I was here!” He had lots to share over the next while and I enjoyed his anecdotes. His favorite player was not one of the big starts that have dotted the rosters over the years but a player who hung around and signed autographs. He recalled when they were just regular people who had other jobs when they weren’t on the field. His friend now also began sharing stories about her trips to the park. They weren’t married but she gave her night game tickets to his wife because she didn’t feel safe coming to the games alone at night anymore. My friends were also participating in the conversation and equally captured by the identification of favorite moments and players. The game seemed to fly by and we were all celebrating the Cubs win (a rarity this season) and the other three went down to field level to connect with some other acquaintances. I hung around for a few second longer and thanked my 70-year old historian for sharing his memories. He said it was great for him as well because his short-term memory was gone (“I can’t remember the first inning by the end of the game”) and it was nice to recall some highlights.
The connections for me in these two situations are that we can’t opt out based on the initial response. At the park we could have been grumpy right back at the two folks in front of us and everything would have spiraled down from there. I certainly would not have had nearly the same awesome experience. In the classroom, we can’t take our students’ lack of engagement as their final position either. We’ve got to find the ways to connect them and leverage that into a positive learning experience. In both cases, we need to act not react.