When I consider my scholarly pursuits, my drive to succeed in high school, and my undergraduate degree, it was all accomplished in a spirit of self-interest: to procure a respectable job at the end of it all. I did school because I was looking ahead. I was motivated by the predicted reward for my efforts.
This is a horrible reason to do school.
Participating in my teaching program (PDP) at SFU has been the first time I have enjoyed school for the process. I love what I'm learning; it's meaningful to me. I have been motivated to engage in personal inquiry and extra study - even though I am not "required" to by the program. I would take PDP again just for the journey - not just the job or piece of paper at the end.
I am frustrated that it took me so long to experience this excitement towards my education. If I had approached learning in this way from the beginning, my time in school might have been so much more enriching.
What has made my experience in PDP different from my other schooling?
- Choice (Ownership). Let's be real: I didn't have a choice about going to grade school. Under my parents' roof, I didn't have a choice about going to university and getting my undergrad. I didn't apply to PDP until a couple years after completing my BA, after I had had a chance to really explore my passion for teaching and realize that this is what I want to do. Choosing to pursue PDP for myself has helped me take ownership for my learning.
- Relative Independence. The syllabus for PDP is virtually non-existent. We have regular observations and finals due, but our own professional development has really been left to us. Our Faculty Associates have been very supportive facilitators of our learning but it is up to us as student teachers to engage in the relevant pedagogy and literature. I have surprised myself as to how motivated I have been to study and learn on my own initiative with this independence.
- Progress. I am still learning so much, and am in the very early stages of my career, but as I am building my skill set as a teacher I'm witnessing positive progress in my abilities as a teacher. I am able to tangibly see my progress through feedback from my supervisors, students, and colleagues, as well as the quality of my self-reflection.
I don't want my students coming to school because they have to be there. I don't want them trying hard in high school because they think that's the only way to get into university and experience success in life. Reflecting on these three factors that have made school so motivating and empowering for myself, it shouldn't be too hard to incorporate these into my classroom. I want my students coming to school because they have ownership over their learning, can feel relative independence, and can see evidence of their learning in a way that excites them.
Students will feel motivated to learn when they have ownership, independence, and see personal progress.
How can school be more mindful of motivation?
Daniel Pink effectively speaks to the power of motivation in his book, Drive, which has really helped me unpack my understanding of how I'm motivated. Below is an inspirational TED talk he presented on 'The Puzzle of Motivation.'