Leading underachieving

Are students not motivated in learning? What if they are not at the level of learning to communicate motivation? How do we support a learning environment to promote motivation?

Students who aren’t “motivated” according to their academic achievement levels are motivated, just not motivated to do what we want them to do. Recently, I walked the halls of a school and peered into classrooms to see a variety of levels of engagement and motivation.

The leader’s issues multiply by lack of consistency in teaching staff with several substitute teachers in place, International teachers in the area to relieve the teacher shortage, students at different learning levels, and finding staffing to support them.

Students are motivated to meet their needs. We can engage them in the classroom, but probably not the same way we can the students we find the easiest to teach. As the old saying goes, we all learn to beat at our drumbeat! Don’t give up try these first!

  • Talk with students and not at or down to them. Great relationships are built on trust, honesty, and acceptance. If you try to patronize them, they will see right through it! Let them tell you what their issues are and how those can be solved. Could you provide them with support in making realistic goals?
  • Begin where they are and what they already know. Facilitate helping to guide students through the subject area they find exciting and vital. It is essential to build on strengths as you form relationships and enhance the learning environment.
  • Working with individual students, you will discover the best approach for instruction. Some students are auditory, others visual or kinesthetic. I have found many students who need all of these instructional styles to capture appropriate learning.
  • Providing direct, consistent, and timely feedback gives learners exactly what they need. They do not want to wait, guess or question how they are doing. They need to know quickly.
  • Discover what they want to do in life. What do they expect? It may change, but they need to see targets and results. Their efforts need to be paying off for them in some way.
  • One of the items I noticed when focusing on closing the gaps, the students who are performing well begin to stretch themselves to the next level. When everyone is working to achieve, everyone gets better.

Leaders can advocate for good instructional practices, positive learning environments, policies to support them and focus on learners first. It is time to move past the ‘what if,’ ‘yeah but’ and ‘who else is doing it?’ Take charge of leading your school with the knowledge you have to recover, motivate and continue to grow.

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