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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.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beyond Personality: The Importance of a Systemic Approach to Staff Development

As someone who provides staff development, it has been my experience that most professional development is driven by a single personality within a school or district. While there are an increasing number of schools who delegate decision-making to a staff development committee, it remains more common for the course to be charted by one individual, often the building principlal. For example, if a building principal reads one of my books or hears me present at a national conference and develops an interest in internal control psychology/choice theory, they may engage me to work with their staff over a period of time. While “over a period of time” is head and shoulders ahead of the “drive by” staff development I wrote about recently, too much staff development is personality driven as opposed to system driven. Let me give an example to illustrate what I mean.

Several years ago, I was contacted by an elementary school principal who had read Activating the Desire to Learn. Over the next three school years, I provided a series of staff development sessions at her school that included summer workshops, multi-day workshops, and regular visits to the school that included meeting with teachers, visiting classrooms, and modeling lessons. Even though I’m not a big fan of NCLB and AYP, I was pleased that our efforts contributed to the school achieving AYP every year we worked together. (It’s worth mentioning that there are over two dozen schools in the district and this was one of only two to make AYP last year.) My work on internal motivation, student engagement, and choice theory was woven into other staff development initiatives so that teachers received integrated professional development. Because the school provided comprehensive staff development and ongoing coaching to teachers, they had a lot of well-deserved success.

But…. (all to often there’s a “but,” isn’t there?)….the principal left. The incoming principal has her own ideas. I don’t know how closely they align with what we have done the past three years. I do know that principals are granted considerable autonomy, charged with “putting their stamp” on a school. It will not be surprising if this principal charts her own, different course.

Unless practices are formally adopted by a district, schools will continue to repeat the cycle of improvement, change in leadership, and change in direction. It takes a lot of effort and willpower to raise things to the level of district policy. That’s why most schools don’t do it. Years ago I worked with a district in upstate New York. They stood out because they took the choice theory principles we worked on together and wove them into the district mission statement. That ensured that the ideas would continue even after an energetic, passionate principal left the district.

If you want your staff development to be more than a reflection of the personality leading a school or district, consider how you can incorporate key ideas and applications into formal policy. When you start looking at staff development as something that impacts policy, you’ll begin to take it more seriously, carefully consider what it is you want to pursue, and give your school/district tools to effect change extending beyond the personality of an engaging leader.

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

1 comment:

  1. To be a student is quite a hard work. One of the most tough thing is to keep being motivated. I've found an interesting article abour motivation for Harvard students:
    15 Rules of Motivation