How can we change the mindset that it is not ‘cool’ to achieve in school?
This discussion aimed to deal with a situation that I am sure many of us have faced with children who are afraid to achieve because of how their peers will react and indeed how to deal with those children whole feel it is ok to bully others because of their achievements. Almost straight away the question was asked as to whether this was a discussion about praise or motivation and I responded that it was a bit of both. The discussion then moved on to the question of praise and more importantly how children react to praise. It became quite clear that children react to praise in different ways – some will love the public praise of an Achievement Assembly whereas others will dread these occasions. The point was made that praise and rewards need to be meaningful – we can over do stickers and certificates – and that the praise and reward that works for one age group can be completely ineffective for another. We also talked about who the praise comes from and how children can react completely to praise coming from outside school through tools such as blogs and Twitter. After the discussion I then came across this quote which I thought summed up this topic quite well – “We destroy the love of learning in children …by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards.” by John Holt.
The discussion then moved on to how to foster this love of learning and motivate children to want to achieve. We also looked at how to make low-ability children not feel threatened by the high achievers. Everyone agreed that every child achieves in some way and that all achievements, academic and non-academic should be praised. We also talked about how, as teachers, we have a responsibility to act as role models to show how much we enjoy learning and how we need to demonstrate our passion for whatever subject we teach. We discussed celebrating geekiness and how a teacher’s enthusiasm for their topic can be a very powerful motivational tool.