Friday, July 27, 2012

The Myth of Motivation -- 2

I saw an articlefrom Pakistan that suggests that “slow learning” is a leading cause of suicides, among youth. The article refers to students who cannot pass their high school matriculation exam.  Yesterday, I wrote about The Myth of Motivation. I find a lot of evidence that children who do poorly, particularly those who don’t get their homework done, care far more about doing well that the credit they receive.  One interesting observation I’ve made is that children with chronic homework problems usually appear highly motivated in September when they get to school. This is particularly true in middle school because they have four or five different major subject teachers. It gives these children a window of opportunity to “do well,” for at least a few weeks, since they can get all the work done for some teachers, even if it means doing none for the others. Quickly, the boom comes down, their parents are called in, and so much pressure bears down to get all the work done, that they end of doing nothing at all. Again, they are viewed an unmotivated. But watch that window. Typically, these kids are extremely excited about school.

My friend and colleague, Professor Jay Kuder, used to join me on presentations on the Homework Trap. He would use the example, in explaining the Myth of Motivation, of a kid who slammed his desk in frustration that he never won the Student of the Week Award which in this school meant being given the opportunity to have lunch with the principal. Hardly an unmotivated student. Yet, he could never win this award, not because he didn’t try hard in school, but because he was not capable of completing the homework assignment s, get recognition for his efforts, and eventually winning the award.

The article from Pakistan is very short and does not give details about why this is the case. But it is chilling to think that we think kids don’t care, but then see them taking their own lives when they fail to do well.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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