He feels demotivated in college… I asked him if it would help for teachers to actively motivate him, he said it would help him a lot. [Comment by a colleague about a student]
How might a teacher ‘actively motivate’ a student? What might this mean?
I cannot change others, I can only work at changing myself. [John Mason]
We cannot change others, but we may well influence [etymology: in-fluere - flow into, in-flow], through our actions, words, the way we are.
I have found that kindness and expertise may lead to students becoming more open-to-influence, and then to trust. These are the seeds of motivation.
Openness and trust are gifts that are offered to us. Yet only with openness to influence does education become possible.
Only awareness is educable. [Caleb Gattegno]
Gattegno defined (an) awareness as, ‘That which enables action’. This combines noticing and alternatives for action coming to mind, in the moment.
One thing we do not seem to learn from experience, is that we do not often learn from experience alone. [John Mason]
We gain awareness through cycles of noticing and reflection. Once there is openness to influence, the role of the educator is to position oneself within this cycle, to scaffold and then fade.
If we do not have the power of reflection, what have we? [Dorothy Heathcote]
Educators may encourage noticing-reflection through providing structure (as well as help realising narratives, revealing dilemmas, ...).
I had a conversation to the student referred to in the opening comment, to help him reach an awareness. I think we have a trusting relationship. We have had similar conversations before. He realises he is slipping, and wants to change. We talked about his family, about possible futures, about how education provides choices.
We made a plan for allocating his time more effectively. He might not yet be able to respond to the demands being made of him, but we are working towards this.
This conversation may lead to the student setting himself to act differently. It will take time, energy and patience:
If you usually remain angry for ten minutes, try to reduce it to eight. Next week make it five minutes and the next month two. Then make it zero. [Dalai Lama]
The real challenge is the step-to-zero; this might not be as simple as the Dalai Lama makes it sound.