One of the most commonly searched phrases on our website at the moment relates to the motivation of students? No real surprise there? After almost 12 months of interrupted education, of course they are lacking in drive and passion. What is more surprising is that people are surprised by the student’s apparent apathy? Exhausted teachers, themselves bereft of energy and creativity are desperate to find solutions to these unprecedented challenges.
Worryingly, the Government are trying to solve the situation by throwing money at the problem under the guise of the Covid catch up fund? Seemingly the entire profession is now under enormous pressure to ensure that this generation quickly make up for lost time by catching up with the lessons they have missed out on this past year. Is it really that hard to believe that teenagers aren’t desperately keen to hone their trigonometry skills, brush up on their Shakespearian quotes or recite the Periodic table?
Of course, they are demotivated. Of course, they are apathetic. Of course, they are ambivalent about schoolwork. After the year they have had why wouldn’t they be? The very last thing young people need right now, after months in the abyss, is the pressure of catching up on academic studies. At a time when many of these young people have been terrified by daily news bulletins or saddened by the death of relatives, neighbours and friends, it is inconceivable to think that we are just going to force them back on to the conveyor belt that our education system has become.
I am reminded of the old adage ‘If you do what you have always done, you get what you have always got.’ After this crisis that has gripped the entire planet, are we really going to insist that these young people must go straight back into silent lessons, grades, assessments, progress charts & scores? We need a fresh approach; we need to use this hiatus to reimagine what education could & should be; we need to seize upon the opportunity that this pandemic has presented us. We need to see our young people as more than just numbers and recognise that their emotional & spiritual needs far outweigh the need to catch up on academic studies.
These young people need space and time to reflect, to discuss, to vent, to be heard, to express their feelings about this past year but more importantly and to share their concerns about the future. At the best of times, I meet too many teenagers that lack hope and confidence about their future, these fears, insecurities and doubts are acutely heightened right now. If we are to succeed in re-motivating them and reigniting their fires of passion, we must instil hope and faith that their futures are worth living. We must prepare them for life not exams, we must reconstruct education to fit the bigger picture of life’s journey not simply the grades at the end of 12 years at school.
We created exams, grades, scores, levels and a system that cares little for the holistic development of our future generations, we can just as easily dismantle that framework. Our youngsters didn’t miss these aspects of school, they missed human contact outside their bubble, they missed their friends and their teachers. Human beings are social animals that love to mix, to talk, to laugh and to express themselves. If we are to truly motivate our youth, we must allow them to reconnect and reimagine themselves. We must talk to them about the wonderful journey of life, convincing them that it can be a magical adventure for each one of them. Now, more than ever, our children need to believe they matter, they have purpose and they are more than just a grade. It is our duty to ensure our kids believe first & foremost in themselves, that they are capable of surpassing all expectations & going far beyond their potential. Once they have this inner belief and hope, then & only then will they become intrinsically motivated.