My students used to hate me

Last week I explained intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It may seem like one is better than the other, but from my experience in the classroom, the reality is somewhere in the middle.

My students used to hate me
Photo by CDC / Unsplash
"Gimme, gimme" Gimme More by our princess of pop Britney Spears

Last week I explained intrinsic and extrinsic motivation . It may seem like one is better than the other, but from my experience in the classroom- reality is somewhere in the middle.

I used to lean heavily on extrinsic rewards. It worked at first, but soon my students started complaining about the rewards. If the prize was candy they didn't like, they would opt out of the task. My class became needy, whiney, and worked for prizes. By the end of the school year my class was unruly and apathetic. Nothing meant anything to them. They didn't listen to me, they didn't care about prizes, and they didn't have pride in their work.

So, I changed my approach:

At the beginning of the school year I gave away very few rewards. I encouraged intrinsic motivation as my students became comfortable with class routines.

This was for two reasons:

1. I was teaching important routines that would need to be done on a daily basis. Rewarding students for simple things like unpacking their backpack or putting their name on a paper is unsustainable. If they were working for constant prizes, they would miss the point that these are the simple tasks.

2. They learned to praise themselves. I didn't need to be the most excited person in the room, since any little bit of energy I gave would be amplified by the kids. So a calm, happy teacher gave them room to feel the satisfaction of going through routines. They got to feel what it was like moving with the group, keeping up expectations, and making their own self proud.

By November, my class would often be in a distinct slump. That's when I would bring out the extrinsic rewards. For the rest of the year I would still prioritize intrinsic motivation, but when the time was right, I would reward a child for going the extra mile. I showed them what I valued by giving prizes when for Β being "extra clever" or "extra helpful."

Since I didn't give out too many extrinsic motivators, when I was feeling sick or tired I could lean on them. If a few skittles was going to get us through the day- then why not?

Was I withholding? No. I was still warm, gave compliments, and encouraged my students to succeed. I just left room for them also praise their hard work. It wasn't about earning my love. They needed to feel love from within.

I found balance in taking an approach to motivation which was heavily intrinsic, with occasional dashes of extrinsic motivation for outstanding work.

What tools keep you and your learners motivated? Reply to this email with your favorite tip for keeping your kiddos reaching for more. I'd love to hear from you!

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Long newsletter today! Thanks for reading- it means a lot πŸ’•

Til next week,