The challenge that is motivation...


The challenge that is motivation...

Harish has been a topper in his class for many years. But as he came to high school, his grades started dropping, and this year, his parents were shocked to see that he failed in one subject and obtained the bare minimum (passing marks) in others.

His parents took a tough stand, stopped all extracurricular activities, even got him a home tutor, and gave him long lectures on how he would never be successful if he does not pick up. His class teacher also recognised his intelligence and capabilities and tried to boost his confidence, and told him to clarify any doubts he had…but he never went back to her. And his grades kept dropping.

After many arguments which threatened to create bitterness between parents and the child, he was brought in for counselling. Cautious at first, Harish soon realised that the counsellor was open to listening to his view point, after which, he summed up his position clearly: “I am not interested in studies at all. I have lost my motivation. I see no purpose in studying.” However, he did admit that he could do well if he puts in efforts. But he added that he just couldn’t push himself to study, and the more his parents and teachers did, the greater became his resentment and obstinacy.

There are many students like Harish who are capable of doing well academically, but as they come to high school or college, find themselves directionless and feel that they cannot bring themselves to study unless they find some purpose in it – other than just scoring high marks to satisfy others. If we adults are willing to acknowledge that this is indeed a state of mind, and such students are not just trying to be difficult, then there is a great deal that we can do, not only to make them study but also give meaning, purpose and direction to their lives. Motivation can be one factor that will not only ensure success, but also reduce the workload of teachers. These are some of the important factors that enhance motivation:

Find the purpose

“Why should I study this subject?” Many students find that they are studying only to score marks. A good teacher starts the academic year by explaining at length the significance of her subject, and how it will be useful regardless of what career the student takes up. And to be able to convince, she herself should be convinced about the importance of whatever she is teaching. This process should be continued periodically through the year, with a regular review of ‘why’ they are learning, not just ‘what’ they are learning.

Add something extra

Today’s children need stimulation of their minds. Doling out information is no longer required in the era of Internet. If a student gets involved and engaged in academics, there is a greater sense of responsibility and the desire to explore, learn and go deeper. This may also require the teacher to go beyond the ‘syllabus’ and teach a few challenging topics that make the entire subject fascinating and wider. Anecdotes, experiments and case studies add more value. Once that is done, students find it easier to relate to what is being taught and learn better.

Establish a connect

Making studies more ‘learning-centric’ and interactive should be another aim of the teacher. Focus on the needs of the child. If you are teaching Maths, talk about cricket scores; if you are teaching language, talk about how great leaders convince the masses through their oratory skills; when you are into Science, connect them to the environment; and if you teach Social Studies, establish how it leads to understanding people better and building good relationships. Always be open to questions — encourage students to write their questions on paper and keep giving to you, so that you can answer them leisurely. Make students talk about themselves, and about what gives them joy or sadness.

Set end goals

Having career goals also serves as motivation. It has been proven by research that students who have specific career goals perform better in exams, because they know that passing exams will bring them closer to their dreams. You can start off career planning even with small children — just make them find out about different careers, and make them meet people who are in varied professions. As they come to high school, help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, and match them to most suited careers. By the time a student comes to Class 10, she or he should have some specific goals that will show her or him the end goal. It does not matter if students change their career goals a little later, as long as they are going for something more suitable for them.

Let them explore

Students should not be forced into a career that may not suit them, just because there is ‘scope’ in that field. Comparing them with others who are getting into professions due to herd mentality can bring down their motivation to the extent that they may stop performing or studying altogether. When children are given the option to explore even unusual vocations and feel that they will be allowed to select their own paths, they will develop an inner desire to prove themselves and perform well.

Treat them like adults

Most students feel that adults only talk to them, but do not really listen to them. They are repeatedly being told that they are too young to take decisions, that their knowledge is limited and that they do not have the wisdom of the elders. Hence, they admire and appreciate any teacher who makes an effort to understand them unconditionally.

As a matter of fact, the scenario is slowly but surely changing to a point where younger people know much more, are updated on latest matters, and can take better decisions than their elders who are still living in the past. If a teacher gives them that respect and acknowledgement, they are willing to learn anything from her or him.

Teach them well

The final factor to ensure motivation is to teach them life skills. We have clear guidelines from World Health Organisation on the 10 basic life skills that every individual needs to learn to lead a happy and successful life. Manuals and workbooks are available to teach them to students.

When students imbibe these life skills, they start taking responsibility for themselves, their self-awareness and relationships improve, they become better decision-makers, they can solve problems efficiently, and they can handle their emotions and stress.This enables them to move steadily forward to whatever goals they have set on the path that is most suitable to each individual student.

(The author is founder, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)

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