Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Hear You

Photo from Molly Sabourin at Flickr.

This post is part of the 30-Day Blog Challenge from TeachThought. To learn more about the challenge go to

DAY 3:  Discuss one observation area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

For the first time this year, Domain 5 of the Charlotte Danielson Frameworks will be a part of our district teacher observations. This domain focuses on student engagement, and it's filled with aspects of teaching and learning that get me all excited just reading through them:

  • Students seek other resources.
  • Students ask relevant questions.
  • Students find the work relevant.
  • Students are developing solutions.
  • Students are persistent in learning.
  • Students are motivated to learn.
I could write a separate blog post on any one of these elements, but because of an experience I had in a class today, I'd like to spend some time on the final one, "students are motivated to learn."

We're currently in the midst of Week 3 of the 2014-2015 school year. It seems that we typically have about two weeks of "back to school excitement" before students start to slide into these engrained, habitual behavior modes that have developed over the years. I start seeing blank stares looking back at me and have more issues with student effort. I completely understand this; many of my students have spent 10 or more years being passive learners, doing what they were told to do in order to move from one grade to the next. This mode is a defense mechanism for them.

It's been increasingly evident in some of my classes over the last few days that this "despair" has begun to set in for a few students. My strategy was to initiate a conversation with them today, trying to learn more about who they are, what interests them, and finding out why they're feeling or acting the way they are in class. It often takes a bit of wheedling to get the information out of them, but I typically get answers like:
  • I don't like science.
  • I don't like to read and write.
  • I don't like school. At all.
  • I'm only motivated by treats, or [insert a different extrinsic reward here].
  • I'm only interested in sleep and food.
And herein lies the true challenge of teaching.

How do I encourage students with fixed mindsets to become active participants in the learning community that we're creating? 

I hear these students. I want to acknowledge their individual perspectives. But at the same time, there are particular principles I can't compromise. I want students to ask questions, be puzzled, and persevere through challenge. I want students to share of themselves; their ideas, their talents, their wonders. I am not a fan of extrinsic rewards for learning.

Motivating students continues to be an enormous challenge. I don't have all the answers, but I have to believe that at the core of this enigma is relationships. So, today I continued cultivating these relationship with one conversation. Tomorrow, we'll continue the conversation. I'm not sure yet what I'll say, but the important thing as that the conversation will continue. The students will know that they matter to me, and that's got to count for something.


  1. Excellent post. I do agree that the challenge today is how to reach students who are disenfranchised with our current education model. I look forward to more reflections on the use of the Charlotte Danielson Frameworks this year. Keep up the blogging!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement Rae! I am hoping to write a few posts on CD Domain 5 this year and would love your feedback.