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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.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What Students "Should" Know

As many schools across North America begin a new school year, I found myself looking through some old memos I had shared with the staff I led as a middle school administrator. Here’s an excerpt from one:

Did you know????  …..Healy, Epstein, and other scientists and developmental specialists have found that in the early years, brain growth rates vary from as little as a few months to as many as five years.  And there are definite differences in how the female and male brains develop  (Eric Jensen, Brain-Based Learning & Teaching, 1995, Turning Point Publishing, p.87). 

Too often (for me), I attend meetings where parents are informed that their child has not learned something they “should” know by now.  Each time I hear that, I cringe.  Given the wide variation in normal brain development, it simply doesn’t make sense to say a child “should” know something simply because she or he happens to be in a particular grade. Cognitive growth and development is as varied as physical growth and development. All we have to do is look around our school to see that “typical” kids develop at different rates. (Those of us who are parents can sometimes see the differences in our own children.)

I reject the belief that kids “should” know certain things just because they are in a certain grade, especially in a public school serving the general population. Instead, it’s more accurate to tell parents that “most kids have mastered” certain things at this point or “your child is having more difficulty with this than many of the other students” or “most of the other kids are able to do this by now.” Those statements are true, provide accurate information to parents, and do not distort the truth. 

To say kids “should” know such and such flies in the face of research and invites feelings of inadequacy and guilt on the part of parents. I aspire to simply tell the truth and stop “shoulding” on others.

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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