This past week, I gave my students updates on their grades in advance of the end of the marking period. Because they had fallen behind in their work, many of them received reports that had failing grades.
Of course, there was much drama surrounding their grades and I was the most hated teacher in school that day. They hounded me all day - during class, during lunch, after school - about how they could bring up their grades. I told them what work they were missing and what they could make up. They were eager to make sure they were at least passing. Later that day and the next day, I got tons of completed assignments - more than I usually get in one or two weeks!
Yes, it is nice to have students who are interested in passing. I'm sure there are many teachers out there who have students who appear uninterested. But, why must I go through all this drama to get my students to do their work? There were tears, hissy fits, and torn up reports. I had students tell me I was unfair, mean, and so on and so forth. (When they get their report cards and see that this is the only class they are passing, though, I will be the best teacher in the school!)
Why are my students only motivated to do their work when they think they will fail? Why aren't they motivated by wanted to succeed EVERY DAY? Why do they wait, put me through so much drama, and then finally do the work they were supposed to have been doing the past couple of weeks?
Perhaps better questions are: How do I get my students to be self-sufficient enough that they keep track of their own grades? How do I get them to come see me on their own to find out their grades and what they are missing? How do I get them to be motivated - not by the fear of failing - but by the desire to succeed?
Can this be taught? Can it be taught to students who already have 8 or 9 or more years of schooling?
Of course, everything was back to normal less than a day later. The tears stopped and they loved me again. Not to mention that this weekend I have about 5 hours of grading to do because they finally decided to do their work. But, I'm still concerned. As I look back at my years so far at this school it is the same thing. Students wait until they get a bad report to do anything about their grade. It's nice to have students who overtly care about their grade. But, that's not enough for me.
The goal in our school is to get every student into a post-secondary institution - whether that be a trade school, a community college, a junior college, or a university. Getting them in these days is not that difficult. But, what happens when they are there? How will they do? Being motivated only by fear of getting a bad report and waiting for that bad report to take action is definitely not going to cut it in college. Professors don't give our progress reports or call home.
I tell them this, but it falls on deaf ears. Of course, I know that lecturing students - whether it is about symbolism or about life choices - does not work. I know how to teach them symbolism in a way that they understand. But, how do I teach them to be self-sufficient and motivated in a way they understand?