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Motivating Students

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: I am an 8th grade science teacher. I am feeling less and less effective with the new generation of students we are getting. Many teachers have noted that they require more and more structure and take less and less interest and personal initiative in their learning. The more structure and support we provide, the less students do. Holding a high standard and requiring personal accountability results in frustration and failure. Please recommend resources and approaches that work. Thanks for your help!

A: As a science teacher I am assuming that your instruction is mostly a hands-on approach. Perhaps a major project where everyone must participate to accomplish the task, maybe an environmental issue where data must be collected regularly, will spur excitement. Sometimes cooperative assignments (where students work in small groups or with another student) are effective.

I believe structure is important, and that the teacher must have control to bring order and meaning to the classroom.

Frustration in any job is not pleasant, but in teaching it can be harmful and cause us to not do our best. I would suggest that staff development is in order. A workshop could be very helpful and give you back the positive attitude and enthusiasm you want. Different parts of the country have different speakers and conferences. Ask around to find out who the popular speakers are and select one who matches your academic area or middle school student population.

You are working with children who are at an important point in their lives developmentally. You can be very powerful in influencing them. Don't burn out and succumb to your frustrations.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.


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