Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director
You know, I am just not motivated to plant a garden. I like fresh food. We eat organically as much as possible (yes, I am one of those people!). I have friends with small gardens and I treasure the produce they share. However, I am convinced that I have a “black thumb”. I vividly remember my last attempt. The leaves of my tomato plants had white and black spots. The few tomatoes that grew got eaten by bugs, birds, and…yes…my dogs! Who knew?
This was five years ago now. I have absolutely no desire to try again.
Ryan was just not motivated to read. He has always loved a good story. He will listen to audio books all day! He has parents who love to read and love to read to him. However, he was convinced that he could not do it himself. He read slowly, laboriously, guessing words based on the beginning letters and the context. If he could have gotten away with it, he would have loved to tell me, his home schooling mother/teacher, “The dog ate my homework!”
How do you motivate someone who has become convinced that what comes easily to you is absolutely torture for him?
Honestly, it depends on the person!
With gardening, I have a choice. I do not have to raise my own food. I can go to the store and buy it. Students do not have that choice. School is their full-time job. They have to attend and do the work. At this point we could get into the interesting avoidance techniques that many students employ: cheating, manipulation, procrastination, rebellion - but the key to helping these students is to understand the why behind the avoidance.
Is it a character or personality issue? Do they expect life to be handed to them with little or no effort on their part? Do they have the necessary skills to be successful, but choose not to? There are so many far more interesting things to do than school work: socializing, gaming, sports, looking cool, superheroes, insects, motor vehicles of all types, and the list goes on...
Or, is it that as smart as they are, they do not have the skills to be successful? No matter how hard they try, they cannot immediately see the difference between “what” and “that”, or recognize that 6/8 is the same as 3/4, never mind how to get there. And, there are still those “far more interesting things” that are pulling at their attention.
If there are skills missing it is important to determine where those gaps are and why. This means inviting other professionals to the team to assess, and then others to create treatment plans to help the student grow. Many times, just the fact that there is a plan in place is enough to spark self-motivation in that student. The plan brings hope!
Warm, enthusiastic, engaging and positive parents, teachers, and therapists can give a student encouragement and the opportunities for success that can strengthen motivation. Coldness, negativity, and harsh words and body language on the other hand, can crush students and make them ask, “Why try?” Knowing they are cared for no matter how successful they are makes a huge difference! Children are naturally curious, but that curiosity can be squelched at an early age, especially in a negative environment or if the motivation is purely rewards based (extrinsic). So, find out what interests them and tap into those interests. Learning, itself, should be rewarding and fun!
There are books and more books written about motivation. One that I highly recommend for those who love and work with struggling learners is Motivation Breakthrough by Rick Lavoie. He does an excellent job of helping us learn how to tune-in those who are tuned-out by understanding the different ways that people are motivated! [Resource]
I will likely never plant a garden again. I don’t have to in order to survive and I am just not motivated enough to put in the time and hard work necessary to be successful. But I am motivated in other areas where I pour out my heart and soul, time and energy. Ryan is an adult now, and he has found those things as well. One of those things is still not sitting down and reading a book. However, spending time with his parents is, and for that I am thankful.
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