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Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taking a Stand for Better Education (A “Both/And” Solution)

I recently wrote about a teacher in Texas who plans to have her 4th grade students sit on exercise balls instead of chairs, having discovered that it has a number of positive effects. My excitement was tempered when I read that this “privilege” would be taken from the students who made “poor choices.” Sadly, this reflects the “either/or” thinking that entraps too many of us. We see a false dilemma: either I implement strategies that help kids or I maintain effective control of the students. When confronted with these false dilemmas, we can look for a “both/and” solution. More often than not, solutions exist (or can be created) if we’re willing to persevere and refuse to settle for “either/or” answers that leave us unsatisfied.

I was delighted to read about a “both/and” solution in an article entitled “Standing Desks: The Classroom of the Future?” Whereas exercise balls can result in problems (the whole kids making “poor decisions” fiasco), this strategy uses desks that are raised so students can stand during class. Best of all, stools are provided for those students who want to sit or at least take a mini-break from standing.
Not only did most kids prefer to stand – “After six weeks, 70 percent of the students never used their stools to sit and the other 30 percent stood the majority of the time they were at their desks” – they burned more calories and, perhaps most importantly, “according to the researchers, standing ‘actually improved attention, on-task behavior, alertness and classroom engagement,’ said (Monica) Wendel, director of the Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A & M Health Science Center. ‘In fact, after several weeks, the teachers requested that their desks be raised also.’”
Whereas the use of exercise balls in lieu of chairs seems to invite the unnecessary “either/or” dilemma for teachers, the use of “stand-biased” chairs provides a host of health and educational benefits without corresponding challenges.

It’s encouraging to read about innovations that reflect creativity and a willingness to develop “both/and” practices that allow teachers to maintain appropriate classroom control while providing kids with an environment that promotes good health and learning.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo
PO Box 1336
Sandwich, MA 02563

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit 

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