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, November 25, 2012

If A Child Doesn't Know How: The Role Of An Educator

“If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach.”

“If a child doesn’t know how to swim, we teach.”

“If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach.”

“If a child doesn’t know how to drive, we teach.”

“If a child doesn’t know how to behave, we... teach? …punish?”

Why can’t we finish the last sentence as automatically as
we do the others?

Tom Herner, 1998.

This quotation was posted my friend and colleague Sylvia Habel, President of The William Glasser Institute, Australia. She got it from one of her master’s students. The author, Tom Herner, is the former president of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDE).

I decided to share it because it so eloquently captures the primary role of an educator: to teach. Whether we’re talking about reading, swimming, multiplying, driving a car, or yes….behaving appropriately, our role is to teach.

Thanks to Tom Herner for these words, and to Slyvia and her student for bringing this to my attention. 

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 www.internalmotivation.net

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Anyone Can Be A Teacher:" A Salute to American Education Week

Today marks the end of “American Education Week.” It’s a time marked by celebration and outward expression of gratitude to those who help educate the next generation. Beneath all the good will and happy talk, however, there remains a belief that teaching isn’t all that big a deal. Let me give an example.

During a conversation with a friend concerning the recent strike by Chicago teachers, he remarked, “Anyone can be a teacher.” As someone who worked as a public school educator for 34 years and has dedicated my professional life to education, I found the comment offensive. (Adide to all my choice theory friends: I know my friend’s comment didn’t make me angry. I chose to be angry. It’s a choice I don’t regret. Sometimes anger is a legitimate choice. Hence the term “righteous indignation.”)

Since then, I have given his comment a lot of thought: “Anyone can be a teacher.” It would be one thing if the comment were made by someone uneducated and insensitive. I could have written it off as an understandable byproduct of ignorance.  But the comment was made by a highly educated, thoughtful, articulate, save-the-planet, unabashed liberal. His stinging rebuke, offered matter-of-factly and without a hint of rancor, got me thinking. Could he be right? Can anyone be a teacher?  Let’s look at what the research says:

  • For the sake of this discussion, I’m assuming a teacher has at least a bachelor’s degree. In 2011, the percentage of people age 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree in the United States was 30.44.  For the math-challenged among you, that’s less than one-third. Hmmm. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest “anyone can be a teacher,” a sentence that rolls easily off the tongues of so many. Seems like nearly 70% of the US population in 2011 lacked the qualifications for a job that apparently “anyone can do.”
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 52% of teachers in 2007-2008 had a master’s degree or higher. By way of comparison, slightly less than 8% of US citizens had attained a master’s degree in 2011.
“Anyone can be a teacher.” Even though statistics show that statement to be false, it remains a fairly common perception. There are lots of reasons why. Among them is the fact that most people have been to school. In fact, in the USA in 2011, almost 88% had attained a high school diploma, something that apparently qualifies them as self-identified “experts.” While most people pause before second-guessing their doctor, lawyer, car mechanic, or lawn care specialist, many find it their civil duty to identify what ails education and how best to fix it. Call it “expertise by osmosis.” Or maybe “familiarity breeds contempt.”

“Anyone can be a teacher.” I started my educational career as an English teacher. I genuinely enjoy language. Verbs, voice, tone, and tense intrigue me. In thinking about the comment, “Anyone can be a teacher,” I decided it might be more accurate to suggest “anyone can become a teacher.” While it’s still an inaccurate statement, I can live with the notion that obtaining a certificate to teach may be within reach for many. They can become a teacher. By that, I mean they have can secure a job. But to be a teacher…..that’s whole different kettle of fish. I think of the many special educators who I have met over the years, artfully finding ways to help kids who learn differently make connections they couldn’t make in a traditional classroom. I think of those teachers who not only “tolerated” some of the unattractive behavior of adolescents, but positively connected with kids who “didn’t deserve it” during those turbulent years. I think of those who work – successfully – with kids whose parents are unable or unwilling to give them the support that every student deserves. While lots of people can become a teacher, it takes something special to be a teacher.

“Anyone can be a teacher.” Despite statistics that refute the idea that “anyone can be a teacher,” the perception persists. Railing against its inaccuracy does little to change it. The challenge for teachers everywhere is to convince the population at large that teaching is a profession worthy of respect rather than derision.

Teachers need to find a way to earn the respect of my educated, perceptive, reflective, thoughtful friend. Currently, he is comfortable saying, “Anyone can be a teacher,” even as he attempts to soften the blow with the rejoinder, “Some of my best friends are teachers and they are smarter than I’ll ever be.” Individual teachers may be – indeed, many are – respected, but the profession as a whole does not get nearly the same level of respect as other professions, some requiring considerably less education and skill to be effective.

The path to respect will not be easy. Teachers must act professionally and become their own best advocates. For as long as I have been involved in education, teachers have failed miserably in that area, in large part because they have tried to remain above the fray. They have naively clung to a romanticized notion that teachers are universally respected and anything that smacks of self-promotion or PR is somehow unseemly or beneath them. Well, those days are over. And to much of the public, teachers unions seem only interested in their members, not the kids. To sway public perception, unions have to be seen as “standing with students and parents.” 

As American Education Week draws to a close, I salute those teachers who inspire the best in their students. They are the real job creators we desperately need.


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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bullying: Prevention vs. Intervention

“The best violence prevention program is to build a sense of community.”

There are a number of intervention strategies to deal with the ever-present and increasingly alarming problem of bullying. As I frequently state in my presentations, “intervention is never as effective as prevention.” Intervention is initiated after a problem has begun so you’re scrambling and trying to play catch-up. In the case of bullying, emotions often come into play and can drive the decisions we make. Decisions made under emotion distress are not always the best.

Prevention, on the other hand, is proactive. We don’t start out behind the 8-ball. There is nothing more effective in preventing school violence and bullying than building a sense of community. While there will still be disputes and skirmishes, they are less likely to evolve into full-fledged violence or bullying when a sense of community has been established.

Here are a few questions to help you build a supportive school community. I suggest discussing them with your colleagues in an effort to create effective action plans:

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most positive, how would you rate your school climate?
  • Are you satisfied with the rating you have given? If so, what do you need to do to maintain your success? If you’re not satisfied, what can you do to create a more positive school climate?
  • What are the qualities/characteristics of a “sense of community” in a school? How will you know if your school has this “sense of community”?
  • What can you (and your colleagues) do to create a sense of community in your school?
  • Will a sense of community help minimize violence and bullying in your school? If so, is it worth your time and effort?

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 www.internalmotivation.net