“Increase the test scores! Meet annual yearly progress! Get the A!” It seems these are the only things we value in education today, and we hear that message loud and clear throughout our schools. How about, “Score the winning touchdown! Lead the team in points scored per game!” This anthem echoes every day in schools throughout the nation. We all want results… outcomes… to meet the mark. Results are all that matter in our society. So much, in fact, that we only award and recognize those that have already attained outcomes that fit our agendas. I write this not to say that striving for results is bad. We should all be pressing toward the mark, whatever that mark may be. I’m writing to stress the fact that we shouldn’t emphasize results as often, or as much as we do. Instead, we should be recognizing and rewarding our students for the process that it takes to get there. Process is something that is often ignored, though it takes time, energy, trial and error and patience.
Why can a student only receive recognition in school for having a 4.0 GPA, for being popular, or for being a star athlete? What about those kids whose abilities, or even self-perception, disqualifies them from fitting those categories? Do you know how demotivating this is for kids who fall in the middle, or even below average? After all, there are far more students who don’t fit the Straight A’s and Star Athlete profiles. These kids are starving for positive recognition, too. They, like everyone else, desire to be noticed and to matter.
When our kids do make steps toward meeting a goal (that if repeated would likely lead to desired results) we just ignore it. Right then, in that moment, is when we must reinforce that the time and effort they are putting in outweighs the end results themselves. They may have done 50 things wrong, but in the process, did 5 things correctly. Let’s celebrate and let our kids know we see the positive strides they are making, even if they haven’t yet met their goals. Let’s make it real for them and award them tangibly, recognizing their efforts in a way that’s supportive. Instead of wondering, “Why even bother,” we can change their thinking to, “I’m starting to get this!” I promise, this will motivate and inspire students to try.
It’s up to us, as educators, to do things differently. We can recognize our students along the way by reinforcing the steps it takes to reach success, not just awarding the success itself. We can motivate this generation! After all, it’s process that we are all looking for – process that leads to desired results. Joyce Meyer, renowned minister and speaker, has a famous catch phrase that I find truly fitting. “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. I’m okay and I’m on my way.” How differently would our schools look if the average student thought this way? If they weren’t too afraid, or too self-defeated to try new things because they had continuing encouragement, even when they failed?
If you are an educator looking for a tangible way to recognize and encourage your unmotivated students, look no further. I know you can do this, and our team can help! We can re-energize and motivate this generation by recognizing the strides they are making when working toward their goals. Let’s breathe life into our nations classrooms!