Motivation

I have been obsessed with motivation for a LONG time.  I have often wondered why understanding motivation isn’t something that is taught in Teacher Education programs and basically the class that teaches every single person the most important things to make you a thinking and self sufficient human being!  I have my conspiracy theories on why this isn’t a more widely understood topic.  I started the following blog 3 years ago and have had it archived since it was written.  This morning while scrolling through Facebook, I came across an article discussing the novel idea of fostering intrinsic motivation in students and got extra giddy when I saw that the article referenced Daniel Pink and his work on motivation.  When I read the comments from educators who obviously thought that their OPINION about motivation was a viable counter argument to all of the research that has been done on the topic, I just couldn’t help but put my thoughts out there.  The following was written almost exactly 3 years ago and I stand by these words more than ever!

September 7, 2014:  There is a growing trend in our society, especially in the education world, of using external rewards to motivate people to do what they are supposed to.  Teachers have stock piled treasure chests, prize baskets, and the like, with rewards for students to do a myriad of things.  They get rewarded for coming to school on time, following rules, completing assignments, reading books, or participating in class.  We see parents bargaining with their children and promising outlandish rewards for doing what is expected of them in various areas of their life.

Using tangible rewards to motivate someone to do something that is expected of them is called extrinsic motivation.  The alternate to that would be intrinsic motivation.  When you do something because you enjoy it, it is the right thing to do, or because it is what is expected, without the promise of a payoff, you are exhibiting intrinsic motivation.

When we dangle a carrot in front of our students, the initial effect is that you have a higher percentage of participation.  We think,  “This is great!  I got everyone to do what I asked!”  The reward produced the desired outcome.  What’s the harm in that, right?  Thinking of all of the negative effects that extrinsic motivators can cause is enough to make my eyeballs pop out of my head!

When you give a reward for a task, you are basically saying that doing said task isn’t beneficial in it’s own right or assume that the person you are asking to complete the task couldn’t possibly see the benefit, so they should do it for a prize.  If you constantly reinforce external motivation, you are depleting any intrinsic motivation that the individual might have.  The effect of the reward lessens over time.  So eventually, you will be right back where you started, and will either have to up the ante or cut your losses.

Putting a price tag on expected behavior, often puts too much pressure on a child, and they crumble under the pressure.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I have seen parents make outlandish deals with their child to behave a certain way, and often times, the situation got worse instead of better.  We have to explain to children why the task is desirable and acknowledge progress made toward reaching that goal.  Expecting it to happen over night or bribing just isn’t realistic!

I am so thankful that I grew up in a time that teachers weren’t paying students to “learn” and in a home that couldn’t afford to offer big prizes for what was expected.  I had teachers who showed that they cared about me.  I had a mom who took me to the library so she could share her love of reading with me.  Was I a perfect student?  NOPE!!  On my report card, I had that little “self control” box checked EVERY quarter, EVERY year.

We have to respect our students enough to show them the importance of learning and stop undermining their intrinsic motivation.  We sit and complain about Millennials expecting something for nothing, but perhaps it is time we step back and look honestly at what got them to this point.  I am pretty sure that the adults who were responsible for raising them and educating them may be to blame for this mentality.  Our country is doomed to continue cranking out self-absorbed citizens who are far too willing to pull out the victim card when the going gets tough, if we don’t stop muddying the waters in the classroom.  Let’s try respecting our children enough to explain WHY learning is important and empower them to take ownership of their education.

 

 

 

 

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So How Did I Do?

Tomorrow is my birthday and I set some basic goals (to me they were BIG goals) to work towards to set myself up for more balance in my life as a 40 year old.  I have definitely made progress in the right direction but just like most things in life, it will continue to be a work in progress.  I wanted to take a moment today to reflect on how I have done with all of my goals so that I can continue to grow and work toward making my life into the life that I want for me and my family. So here we go…

Goal 1: Simplify by Decluttering-

The more stuff that you have, the more time that it takes to manage it.  You can either spend most of your time managing stuff OR you can spend time living life and enjoying the people  in your life.  Becoming a mother really made me think about how I was spending my time.  I cherish every moment that I have with my daughter and husband and do not want to waste our precious time dealing with THINGS!  I want her to be a grateful person who invests her time in people and experiences and not one that sits around demanding more and more stuff.  I also do not want to spend her childhood away from her while I have to work longer than is necessary because I have too much stuff to manage.

I have gotten rid of a few boxes of stuff in our house that were donated to Goodwill and removed some of the items that were supposed to be in my classroom by returning them to my classroom.  I spent a day in my classroom pulling out all of the stuff that was in my closet and was able to donate a good bit of it and organized the closet.  I still struggle with this because I HATE wasting things and I spend more time than I probably should trying to find someone who can use it so that I don’t have to just throw it away.  I still have way more stuff than I could possibly manage and know where everything is.  We have so many resources to use that I don’t have enough time to know exactly what resources I have.  This is why I feel like more money is not the answer to the problems that we face in education but that is a whole different blog post!

I will continue to be inspired by the Minimalist Lifestyle and will continue to work through all of the stuff in our home and in my classroom to simplify my life and free up my cognitive space to focus on more important things!

Goal 2: Schedule-

This is probably the area that I have had the most success.  I have gotten very consistent with my routines at home and it has helped me to be more punctual, which makes me feel great!  I still need to nail down routines at school to make myself more efficient.

Goal 3: Health-

I am definitely more mindful with drinking water but I have totally blown it with having a consistent bed time!  I have found myself staying up later and later, allowing myself to get distracted with technology so I need to tighten up on this.

Goal 4: Mental Well-Being-

I have gotten more accustomed to going for walks with the fam around the neighborhood.  I am starting a new work out group when we get back after our break at school so I am looking forward to a little accountability.  I am also looking forward to more daylight to be able to go for walks at the park with my daughter.

As far as hobbies go, I have done more reading for entertainment but I REALLY want to get my art supplies organized so that they are more easily accessible so I can squeeze in some art sessions when the opportunity presents itself.

When I first started looking forward to my birthday I was focused on staying positive about turning 40.  When you watch children battle cancer and other life altering challenges, it is really difficult to sit around whining about being blessed with another day.  But the last few days I have found myself feeling very emotional about it.  The realization of how precious time is is really sinking in and I want to channel that energy into continuing to work to dedicate my time to what is most important to me.  I don’t want to work my life away and miss out on the sweetest moments of having a young child.  I don’t want to buy into the false sense of importance of being busy.  My life isn’t going to be about stuff or stress.  It will be about joy.

Watch What You Say…

I HATE giving excuses.  If I am in the situation where I am running late or I forgot to do something, instead of giving an excuse, I would default to making a joke about my inability to keep up with things or declare my exasperation at the 3 freaking tractors that were on the road during my morning commute and OBVIOUSLY not in any hurry because why would a tractor be in a hurry?!  Seriously, shouldn’t there be a law about what hours tractors can be on the roadway?  But I digress.

I often had moments where I felt like the Universe was just out to get me.  Little did I realize the subconscious effect that it was having on me.  I honestly think that it was making things spiral further and further out of control.  While I never like to play the victim card, I realized that I was claiming powerlessness by focusing on all of the things that were happening to get in the way.  I was removing any ownership in the whole situation.  Most things are out of my control but I had to have a little Come to Jesus meeting with myself and get a hold of the things that I CAN control.  The FIRST thing was to be mindful of how I was talking to myself!  I HATE when people put themselves down and I have worked very hard to not talk negatively about myself, or at least so I thought.  Coming to the realization of how I was speaking to myself is actually what made me have the idea to set some goals to work toward for my birthday.  I have set myself straight and I feel much better for it!  Pay attention to what you say to yourself and I hope that you will think about speaking more positively to/about yourself!

Progress vs. Perfection

Apparently the universe didn’t get the memo that I’m trying to get my life in order!  My intention was to do an update on my progress that I’ve made toward my goals for my 40th birthday but then Tuesday happened.  Tuesday was just not the best day.  I don’t even remember what all happened to make it a “bad” day but I was in a mood.  So instead of writing an update that would have just put a negative spin on any progress that had been made, I just took a step back at laid low.

I’m a person that’s comfortable with working through a process.  Unfortunately, there seem to be few people around that are comfortable with processes.  But, when you feel like things need to change majorly for not only your happiness, but your sanity/survival, the daily circumstances that surround you can often feel too daunting to overcome and you might feel like giving up.  The most important thing to remember is DON’T GIVE UP!!!  You can never give up on yourself or what you truly want out of your life.

So instead of giving up, I look at what I’ve been doing and reflect on what’s going well and what I can improve.  Acknowledging what has gone well is a far better motivator than casting a critical eye on everything and magnifying what we deem to be a failure.

With 24 days until my birthday, here’s where I stand:

Goal 1: Simplify-I’ve collected 3 boxes of stuff from our house to donate.  (There’ll be MANY more boxes to come!)  I found an old file box that I’ve had since I first started teaching that was SUPPOSED to be my filing system.  There were bank statements from banks that no longer exist and so many other things that were just completely unnecessary and I can’t even tell you the last time I looked in that box!  I consolidated it down to 2 file folders and the rest was shredded.  And to think that I have carried that box with me for 4 moves!

My goal today is to make sure that our living areas are free of extraneous things and to take the boxes to be donated.  We still have cabinets to go through and purge.  We have an entire extra bedroom that is currently serving as a storage room that needs to be purged, but that is a long term project and I’ll have to break that down into smaller pieces.  The more daunting challenge (and the most needed) is tackling my classroom.  I might have to recruit a team to take care of that!

Goal 2: Schedule-I’ve been consistent with my morning routines and making sure that I have everything ready the night before.  Bedtime for baby has been consistent but I need to move my time to work my business to the morning because my brain does not function after baby goes to bed which effects productivity, but it’s still has be an improvement.

Goal 3: Health- I’m pretty sure that I haven’t hit 120 oz of water a day but I’m consistently hitting the 60-90 oz  a day so that’s progress. Being consistent with my bedtime has certainly NOT been consistent, but I think moving my business time to the morning will help with that as well.

Goal 4: Mental Well-Being- I need to go back to my old school days of marking my activity on a calendar.  This is definitely something that I have to make visible to myself.  I’m going to put my jogger stroller in my car and pack workout clothes to go to the park after work and hit the trails with baby because that would do us both some good, but of course that means I have to leave work before it gets dark!

This week I will make a checklist of my Steps for Success so that I can make it visible to myself and hold myself accountable.  I SEE great things happening this week. 🙂

Goal #4: Mental Well Being

I would say that most weeks start out pretty strong for me but around say Wednesday, the wheels just kind of fall of.  As in like Wednesday morning.  Is this why they call it Hump Day?  I don’t seem to be making it up the incline these days.  Case in point, this post was intended for Wednesday evening, along with my raffle drawing for my business, and I am sure a litany of things that I don’t even remember forgetting to do!  Having the weekend is definitely needed to collect my thoughts and refine my goals or steps that I can take to support my goals, but first, I need to lay out my last goal for my 40 Days to 40 Challenge.  This one is probably the most needed and my intention is for the first 3 goals to contribute to this.

I DESPERATELY need to make some time for some down time.  I need time to do things that I enjoy and have NOTHING to do with my job or the thousands of responsibilities that I have on a daily basis.  I know this will probably be very difficult for me since I have grown quite accustomed to isolating myself and just trying to get it all done.  Of course it seems that it isn’t humanly possible to get done what is required of me, and pushing harder and harder without ever giving myself a break is a whole lot like requiring 5 year olds to sit down and focus on developmentally inappropriate tasks like tests, tests, and more tests while refusing to give them recess or developmental center time to play and interact with each other.  Sounds ludicrous, right?!

There are things that were once a part of me that have fallen by the wayside since having Lucy along with the combination of my career and my husband’s work schedule, that I need to reclaim.  I know they will look differently from what they once were, and I am fine with that.  I don’t want to go back to the way things were before Lucy.  I loved those days but my days with Lucy are even better!

Steps for Success:

-Incorporate more physical activity into my life.  (I pushed a car during carpool this week, so that counts, right?!)

-Spend more time doing a hobby that I enjoy.    I have scheduled in time for reading (NOTHING PROFESSIONAL) at the end of my day, before bed.  Running and working out were hobbies that obviously are the goal for my first step for success.  I really enjoy writing so using my blog as a way to track my challenge gives me the opportunity to do a hobby that I enjoy as well.

So as I have worked my way through this week, I will take some time to do some self reflection of what went well and what I can improve on to make this upcoming week even more successful.  I look forward to sharing that in my next post!

 

 

Goal #3: Health

Now when I said I was taking baby steps, I mean I am taking baby steps!  You might laugh when you hear what my health goal is, but like I said before, if you aren’t taking care of the fundamentals, the rest isn’t going to stick.  I wish we could apply this philosophy to education, but I won’t even get started on that!  So back to my health goals…I have been absolutely the worst about drinking water.  When I say I have been the worst about drinking water, that doesn’t mean that I go crazy and chug sodas all day long.  It literally means that I neglect to put any liquids in my body.  I got to the point where IF I finished an entire 20 0z bottle of water in A DAY, I was patting myself on the back!

As a teacher, it can be quite the conundrum to use the restroom when you are obligated to supervise young children all day long!  Sure, we get a planning time, but other than that 45 minutes out of the day, you are kinda responsible for keeping 20 young children alive and on task so that would be one of the reasons that having the freedom to use the facilities when necessary is like the greatest form of freedom for most teachers!  So between the issue with using the restroom and the deeply deluded idea that if I just keep working (and not take a break to raise a cup to my lips) I would EVENTUALLY catch up, I am surprised that I haven’t crumbled into dust from pure dehydration.

SO while my goal may seem very basic, it is desperately needed.  I am sure that hydrating my body AND my brain, I will feel better and be able to think more clearly.  To prepare for this I bought three 30 ounce insulated tumblers that all look alike.  I have trained myself to always have my tumbler with me.  I don’t drink out of anything else so I am not having to figure out where the lid to the 876th random cup is.  (Remember, I am still decluttering!) It is routine for me now and therefore does not take up any of my precious little brain cells.

Steps for Success:

-Drink 120 ounces of water a day. (That is 4 of my handy dandy tumblers for those of you that like to math!)

-Stick to a consistent bed time.  This is connected with my schedule goal as well.

Like my other goals, this goal will evolve and grow as I master one component at a time.  I aim for having more fruit and vegetables throughout the day  but that comes more easily to me since I am feeding a toddler and accommodating her nutritional needs.  Now the trick for truly mastering this goal will be training my bladder to handle the change!  Wish me luck!

Goal #2: Schedule

The brain craves structure, or so the story goes.  An ADHD brain NEEDS structure.  The catch here is that as an adult, it is up to the same ADHD brain to create the structure and there is the crux of the matter.  When you are so busy running around like a crazy person with their hair on fire, you may neglect this for some time until the minutiae in which you are living in becomes downright unbearable.  And that is when you have to pull the emergency brake and take it all the way down to the basics.

So for this goal, I am SERIOUSLY taking baby steps.  I WILL be successful because I am taking it down to the bare bones and building from the bottom up!

Steps for Success:

-I have written down my daily MUST DO Routines so that I don’t skip over something that causes me to spiral into a hot mess express in the mornings.

-I have created a daily schedule for home AND work including times for all of the things that are most important to me.

-I have scheduled time for technology, for reading (that was once a beautiful hobby that I enjoyed), AND BEDTIME!!

I definitely have much work to do once I have mastered these fundamentals to be on top of all of the things that I have going on in my life, so as I approach mastery, I will be adding more steps to take.  I know that I have only been doing this challenge for a few days, but I can already feel the difference in my brain.  I am definitely looking forward to this process, but since my bedtime is quickly approaching, I will have to sign off for now but look forward to sharing goal #3 with you tomorrow!