Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Countdown to Spring Break

I’m usually a go-getter. I usually work hard at my job and at home. I run a caffeine-fueled, high-energy work day. And then I go home and run full-speed with my little ones. And when they go to bed I run around doing chores and errands.

But .....

Wow. Have you seen that sun this week? Have you seen that beautiful blue sky today? Have you felt that 76-degree temperature? Have you counted down the hours until spring break?

I’m tired. I’m sit-on-the-couch-and-surf-the-internet-after-work-tired. Daydream-about-spring-break-tired. Want-to-relax-at-the-beach tired. Maybe-that-laundry/messy-floor/errand-can-wait-until-tomorrow-tired.

And I freely admit that I am not battling spring-feverish-adolescents all day! You all must be EXHAUSTED!!

I’m so tired, I am struggling with my own motivation to write today. I don’t always feel inspiration every Monday or Tuesday to be ready to share on Wednesday.

This is a tough time of year. The kids struggle with motivation -- and so do the teachers!

I can’t do much from a laptop to help with teachers’ motivations. I can help with

I can’t do much from my laptop here in a school to actually make your lives better for the next week and a half. And spring break really is 7 work days away. I do not have time travel powers to make that pass more quickly.

But I can help you think through motivation and hope that some of that can help with your students.

Here are some little things that neuroscientists have concluded ACTUALLY make a difference in student (and adult) motivation. What pieces of motivation science can help your kids (or your colleagues?

  1. Novelty: Novelty can get the brain’s attention pretty quickly. It’s why students zero-in on your new haircut but not on their scale. The haircut is novel. The scale is the same-old, same-old. Use a cartoon, picture, music, youtube clip, a stupid hat -- whatever --  to hook students and mix it up from what you usually do. Hold class outside. Answer with chalk on the sidewalk. Rearrange your desks. Do something different to get your kids’ attention.

  1. Laughter: Humor can relieve stress, raise endorphins, send oxygenated blood to the brain and create a memorable experience. Giggle your way through parody videos of Chinese Dynasties (to Madonna’s “Vogue”) or the Missouri Compromise (to Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”). Try the Magna Carta Epic Rap Battle. Go ahead and laugh. It make you feel better and learn stuff.
...C’mon, you guys. They’re PARODIES!! You’re supposed to laugh! Of course they’re silly!

3. Curiosity: Mysteries are interesting. It’s why we want to know about Amelia Earhart or NCIS or the Malaysian Flight 370. Create a mystery in your class.
  • Why would someone count as 3/5 of a person?
  • What would happen if FDR hadn’t dropped the bomb on Hiroshima?
  • How can we figure out what Andre Jackson really felt about the Cherokee people? What will his writings tell us?
  • What kinds of people might have voted for a particular historical candidate?
  • What kinds of punishment or forgiveness should be involved with readmitting states to the union?
  • What Greek city-state should we “move to”?

4. Tactile Learning:  Once, I got to read and touch an original copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlet as part of teacher PD. It was amazing. And memorable. And yes, I was an adult. Even adults learn in a tactile manner. Pass around an object, an artifact, even a paper photocopy. Have kids slide cards around a desk, spin a spinner, or build something.

Even grown-ups need to have hands-on learning. Teens do too.

5. Cooperation & Relationships: Kids are more motivated by interaction by their peers. We, teachers, need to get out of our classroom “silos” and interact with our peers, too. Brain research tells us that humans who don’t interact with others daily actually lose brain cells. Those who do engage with others daily grow brain cells. Cooperation actually increases the release of dopamine so we feel good. Help those kids get smarter and more motivated; have them interact with each other academically and regularly.

Oh, and you-the-teacher might find it beneficial, too.

How can you help your own motivation? How can you help your students? C’mon, friends! We only have 7 days left (after today)!! How can you make it more motivating and more bearable? As always, I love to hear from you! Email me at

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