There aren’t many people that I have run into that like change – especially among my students. Change takes time, and work, and more understanding than what we are used to giving on a daily basis. Adults can tend to understand why change is necessary in most situations, mainly because we have more years of experiences to reflect on and gain knowledge and maturity from. Our students, however, do not have that time and those experiences to reflect on determine when and where change would be necessary. As teachers, we need to explain this to them – aka providing them with a “why.”
I’m a high school learning support teacher and I run a resource-type classroom. This is my third consecutive year of working with the same group of students… which might seem crazy, but it’s my most favorite part of my job. I get to watch these kids from freshman through senior year and have a front row seat to watch them grow. We’ve been able to develop mutual respect for one another, we’ve celebrated growths that have occurred, we know each other’s mannerisms, we know how to push each other’s buttons (ha!), and we know the expectations that are set, both inside my classroom and for their futures. While all of this is great and makes coming to work easy most days, I do still experience some frustrations with my students. My most recent frustration has been the most general of wishes by teachers for their students: just do your work! I have a small group of students who I have met with their families multiple times to discuss their lack of work production and possible failure of their courses. In so many of those meetings, the students will say that they “don’t see the point” in doing the work. Until now, I haven’t thought twice about that statement and have always tried to reason it away by explaining the importance of doing the work, earning the grade, earning the credit, graduating on time, blah blah blah… the standard teacher/guidance counselor response. After watching the videos this week, I am certainly thinking twice about what my students are saying.
As Tom Asacker says in his video Why TED Talks Don’t Change People’s Behaviors, “desire moves us.” If you have passion or feel motivation you are more easily able to complete a task or work towards a goal. That passion and motivation becomes your “why.” If teachers want students to complete work, they have to focus on the “why” behind the assignment. We need to help our students understand the why in order for them to develop a motivation or passion to complete their work. Helping them to understand why they are supposed to do something will lead to self-motivation to continuously complete tasks and in turn, develop a skill that can help them in their future plans (i.e. organization, note-taking, time management, list making, etc). The why needs to be more than just a standard posted on the board, or a curriculum map hidden in a binder somewhere. The why needs to help students relate to the material and develop a desire to continue to learn.
Providing a why for my students is a change that I need to make, and that I need to encourage my colleagues to make as well. We know change doesn’t always float everyone’s boat… but if my changing can lead to my students experiencing more success than it’s worth every chance.
Asacker, T. (2014, June 30). Why TED talks don’t change people’s behaviors: Tom Asacker at TEDxCambridge 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0jTZ-GP0N4&feature=youtu.be