The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child

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9780743289610: The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child
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The Motivation Breakthrough explores proven techniques and strategies—based on six possible motivational styles—that will revolutionize the way teachers and parents inspire kids with learning disabilities to succeed and achieve.

Backed by decades of experience in the classroom, educator and acclaimed author Rick Lavoie explodes common myths and gives specific advice for motivating children with learning disabilities. He outlines parents’ and teachers’ roles, suggesting ways in which they can work together to encourage any child to reach his or her potential. Finally, he reveals what we can learn from some of the most powerful motivators in the world: advertisers. With empathy and understanding, Lavoie offers parents and teachers the key to unlocking enthusiasm and responsiveness, proving any child can be motivated to learn.

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About the Author:

Richard Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed., has worked as a teacher and headmaster at residential special education facilities for the past thirty years. He holds three degrees in special education and serves as a consultant to several agencies and organizations. The father of three adult children, he lives with his wife in Barnstable, Massachusetts. He welcomes visitors to his website at www.ricklavoie.com

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Part IUnderstanding and Fostering Student Motivation

Student Motivation: What It Is and What It Is Not

"If there is anything that we wish to change in a child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves." -- Carl Jung

Several years ago, I designed and delivered a workshop entitled "I Can't" Versus "He Won't": Motivational Issues in Special Education. This awkwardly titled seminar was designed to acquaint teachers and parents with basic information about motivation, the impact of learning problems on motivation, and strategies to improve a student's efforts in the classroom and at home.

I was delivering the seminar to the faculty of a small Midwestern high school during a staff development day. Among the audience members was a stern-looking middle-aged gentleman who -- I later learned -- taught United States history and civics. He sat tight-lipped with his arms crossed firmly throughout the seminar. Although we never spoke to each other during the workshop, his body language clearly communicated that he was not buying what I was selling. He rolled his eyes and sighed audibly several times during my presentation. He shifted impatiently in his seat and glanced at his watch repeatedly. His behavior demonstrated that he had not begged his supervisor to allow him to attend a motivation workshop that day.

At the conclusion of the seminar, I opened the floor to questions. I was disheartened -- but not surprised -- to see this gentleman's hand shoot up. I acknowledged him and he stood and stared icily at me. "Your workshop had a lot of suggestions and plenty of reasons why kids aren't motivated to learn, but I am in total disagreement with your premise."

"And what is the source of our disagreement?" I asked, tentatively.

"Quite simply, it's not my job to motivate these kids. If they come to my class and they want to sit quietly and learn history, I will gladly give them the facts, information, and concepts that they need. If they are not motivated to learn, they can sit in the back of the class and sleep if they wish. It's their choice. It's their loss. I communicate information...and I do that very well. But if a kid doesn't care to learn it, that is not my problem. It's his problem. I'm a teacher, not a cheerleader."

We discussed...and argued...and debated...and dickered...and quarreled.

Because we disagreed so fundamentally on this issue, the discussion became quite heated. Finally, I said in some frustration, "But there are many legitimate reasons why a student can lack motivation: fear of failure, lack of understanding, learning disorders, frustration. Every learning theorist from Piaget to Gardner has stated that the learning process begins with motivation. Without motivation, there is no learning. Attempting to teach a child who is unmotivated is as futile as hammering on cold steel."

"But it's not my job!" he countered.

"It is your job, sir. Quite simply, kids don't come with batteries included. You've got to provide the batteries if you want them to function."

I don't believe that I was successful in changing the gentleman's mind, but our exchange did give me a better title for the seminar. I renamed the workshop "Batteries Not Included: Motivating the Struggling Learner," and have delivered programs throughout North America, Australia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand.

Most teachers and parents recognize that motivation is the key to learning. Reflect for a moment on your favorite teacher in high school. The chances are that he was an effective motivator. He inspired you. He was not merely a teacher, he was also a leader.

He did not necessarily make learning fun, but he made learning attainable and purposeful. Whether you serve children as a teacher, parent, coach, or instructor, you will multiply your effectiveness immeasurably if you learn how to motivate your charges and maintain that motivation throughout the learning process.

I began my study of student motivation in the twentieth year of my education career. I interviewed dozens of teachers about student motivation and was surprised and disheartened to find how little my colleagues knew about this important topic. The more I learned about this subject, the more I came to realize that I, also, did not have an effective repertoire of motivational techniques. I tended to use a "one size fits all" approach with my students wherein I expected all of the children to be motivated by the same star chart, checklist, or reward system. This broad approach left many children unmotivated and uninspired. I was able to motivate many of my students. I analyzed the approaches and strategies that were successful with these children. My successes, I came to recognize, were almost accidental -- nearly serendipitous. I made no conscious attempt to match the child to the motivational technique. I merely had the good fortune to use a motivational strategy that, by happenstance, seemed to inspire a particular child.

After observing one of my classes a generous superior once commented that I was "a natural motivator." I wasn't, and now that I have a better understanding of the intricacies of this complex process we call "motivation," I realize a truly "natural motivator" is a rare, rare person indeed. In order to establish and maintain the motivation of a fellow human being, or a classroom filled with fellow human beings, one must understand the complexities inherent in this elaborate motivation process.

It is important that adults learn what motivation is! But it is equally important that they unlearn what motivation is not! I have yet to find an undergraduate- or graduate-level curriculum that effectively addresses this fundamental concept. Teachers' lack of training and exposure to the basic tenets of childhood motivation results in a corps of American teachers who are unable to understand or implement effective motivational techniques.

The media bombards us incessantly with the bad news emanating from America's classrooms. Test scores are down, dropout rates are up, and school violence is on the rise while school attendance declines. Students' high-risk behaviors (drug use, sexual activity, delinquency) increase while SAT scores plummet in some communities. There are innumerable reasons for these statistics, many of which are beyond the control of parents and school personnel. But student motivation is clearly a factor in these upsetting educational trends. This fact should serve as a clarion call to America's parents and professionals to focus time, energy, and other resources on the study and exploration of motivation.

This book is designed to explore and, to a degree, demystify the complex process of motivating school-aged children. First, we will explore and explode some of the most common myths and misconceptions that impact our understanding of motivation. Following this unlearning, the processes of learning and relearning can begin. Second, we will discuss and demonstrate the significant impact that learning disorders can have upon a student's ability to maintain his motivation in the classroom, at home, and on the playing field.

The final, and perhaps primary, focus of the book will be a collection of field-tested strategies designed to create, foster, and maintain the motivation of children in a variety of settings.

It is not overstating the case to say that our nation's future depends greatly on our ability to motivate our children today. This fact should inspire all adults to become more effective motivators. In the sage words of Charles Kettering, "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."

Myths and Misconceptions About Student Motivation

"Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn't...do something else." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Today's teachers and parents should heed FDR's sage advice. Often, we continue to repeatedly use traditional "motivational techniques" despite the obvious fact that these strategies are not working effectively. I recall a simmering teacher bringing an errant and unmotivated student into my office and complaining, "I have kept Josh in for recess fifteen days in a row and he still isn't doing his math homework."

Well, let's circle the slow learner in this picture. The strategy is not working. Try something else!

Because we are unable to inspire our students by igniting their intrinsic (internal) motivation, we try to motivate them extrinsically by establishing a complex tapestry of tests, quizzes, evaluations, and grades. In effect, we force them to be motivated to master the targeted curriculum. ("I know that you will never need to use these algebra equations in real life, Tucker, but you must learn them because they will be on Friday's test.") This unrelenting coercion seems to be a rather unfair use of our power over children. We can do better.

I have come to recognize that most teachers and parents adhere to a false and shaky set of beliefs related to motivation. These misconceptions must be shelved before we can embrace a more enlightened motivational approach.

Motivation Myth #1

"That Danny...NOTHING motivates that kid."

Any teacher or parent who makes this statement is displaying a sad lack of knowledge about the true nature of student motivation.

We must come to understand the most basic tenet of human motivation. This concept is the keystone upon which the remaining pages of this book rest. The simple but profound concept is the following: All human behavior is motivated!

EVERY behavior that we manifest on any given day is motivated. If a reader decides to stop reading this book at this point, I cannot state that the person is "not motivated." She was motivated to stop reading. If a friend of mine stops calling me on a weekly basis, I cannot say, "He is unmotivated to maintain the friend...

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