by Jennifer Graydon

Recently I was struck by how motivation can play out in the classroom. I noticed that several students may come in late, others may crack jokes, and others may turn in their assignments late. Coincidence? Shall we write it off as “bad student behavior” or is there more?

The behavior might reflect a variety of thoughts and feelings that students have towards either learning or the class itself. My new concern became not how I could impose consequences, but how I, as an instructor, can reach these kids and help reshape their attitudes and feelings towards learning?

So, I went back to basics: Start where the student is. I asked my students how they felt to be there, what their goals were once they graduated, and asked them how, as an instructor, I could be of service. All really important questions to “meet students where they are at.”

Instantly, I found the energy begin to shift. Suddenly, students began sharing their experiences and participating in class in a meaningful way. We then discussed The Stephen Covey Circle of Influence Model. This introduced them to the idea that while there may be many things that are out of their control, their time and energy is best spent being proactive and focusing on the things they can change such as their attitudes.

Light bulbs anyone? This was an important moment not only for them, but for myself as an instructor. The truth of the matter is that when mutual respect and understanding occur, so does the pathway to learning.