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Activating Desire (1)

Updated on December 12, 2010
ACSutliff profile image

A.C. Sutliff has been a teacher since 2010. She self-published a realistic fiction trilogy for teens and is now writing a fantasy trilogy.

The research is indisputable: Students are less disruptive and do better academically in schools that cultivate the internal motivation of students.
The research is indisputable: Students are less disruptive and do better academically in schools that cultivate the internal motivation of students. | Source

What is Internal Motivation?

I am like a balance scale. On the inside, I am balanced. But what I perceive myself to be and what I actually am are not always the same. When my vision of myself does not match my reality, my balance starts to tip. Just as if someone put a tiny weight on one of my balancing plates.

At that point, there are choices to be made. I can put a weight of equal measure on the other balance plate to even the load. I can force my balance plates to realign by pushing down on the higher plate or pushing up on the lower plate. Or I can decide that my scale may not be balanced, but it's close enough. It's only one weight after all. I don't have to do anything about it right now.

I expect my classroom to be a certain way. My vision is idealistic. The students are excited to learn. They eagerly listen to me teach, and actively engage in my activities. They ask wonderful questions and teach each other. They answer my deep questions, listen to each other, and enjoy learning. They are excited to reflect on the learning of the day and eager to return tomorrow to continue on the path.

So when one of my students decides to sit and let the group do all the work, my balance tips. I have a choice. I can adjust my own expectations to accommodate for students who don't want to work, thus adding a weight to the other scale to balance the load. I can approach the student and manipulate him into sharing the work load by asking a question or giving away an answer. Or I can force him into participating by making him feel guilty for not helping his group, or threatening to send him to the office if he doesn't get to work. Thus pushing down on the higher plate or pushing up on the lower plate. Or I can decide to completely ignore the whole thing. Until a few weeks go by while more students follow suit, and before I know it, my scale is so unbalanced that I have to do something drastic to realign my vision with my reality. I punish, I embarrass, I belittle, I yell. I ruin everything.

The ideal reaction to the situation would be to simply remove the weight that has caused the imbalance. But when that weight comes from a student, removing it is not my choice. It's the student's choice. All I can do is remind that student to help the group so learning can take place. If the student realizes that his own balance is tipped when he sits there disengaged, then he will remove the weight himself, from both scales.

That is internal motivation.


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    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 6 years ago


      I so appreciate that you came by to read. Your ideas sound great too. You definitely have good instincts. Building a relationship is the most important part of teaching, and even when it's only one budget talk, it's still important. I will definitely put that idea in my pocket for the next time my students can't seem to focus on me. In the past, they have really tuned in when I tell them about myself. Thanks again!

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      I so admire anyone who can teach! (The other Patricia is a trained primary school teacher, and now teaches Pilates.)

      There was a time when I had to give talks to people like social workers. I had to tell them about budgets, and finance. I would usually start by asking the group questions about seemingly unrelated things. My idea was to get their attention, and help them to feel engaged. Finance is a scary topic, any many people expect to feel bored, or not understand. So I tried to get them to relate to me, and then I thought they would be more likely to listen.

      Your ideas are so interesting - good hub.

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 6 years ago

      Thanks Parrster!

      You are right about the classroom. I try to just focus on what the students will be learning every day. It's a nice balance of what I have to do and what they have to do. It gets me through the week. :)

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Oz

      I do so admire you teachers. To me the classroom remains the most potentially volatile of all modern environments; a dynamic mix of youth, freedom, ideas, emotions, hormones, parenting styles on one side and teacher’s goals, school policies and academic agendas on the other. With such finely balanced and oft divergent forces I’m amazed at your ability to keep moving in a positive direction at all; let a lone an internally motivated one. I commend you.

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 6 years ago

      Thank you Doug! I appreciate that you left me your thoughts. Glad to have you read what I write.

    • profile image

      Doug Turner Jr. 6 years ago

      Good to hear that your students participate actively and engage each other. That is a teacher's gift to be able to influence them in such a way. You must be a natural, though I'm sure the balance is never accomplished without hard work. Cheers.

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 7 years ago

      De Greek,

      Thank you for your kind words. I did mention that THAT was my IDEAL vision of my classroom, right? :p

      I have to be honest though, and tell you that I do have quite a few students who ask each other for help and help each other out. It is amazing to see them go to each other for help. I am a last resort for them, which leaves me free to help the students who really need one on one instruction.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      "They ask wonderful questions and teach each other" - YOU are a gem and I hope that your students' parents realize how lucky their children are to have you as their teacher :-)

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 7 years ago

      bluejay, thank you for your insightful comment. Everyone is truly self motivated, even if they don't realize it. Those people who sit and do nothing have a poor self vision. If they thought more highly of themselves and expected more from themselves, they would be motivated to do more to help themselves.

    • bluejay900 profile image

      Jessie 7 years ago

      Nice :) I know some people who are like that, who sit and let other people do the work. It makes me sad that it gets them absolutely nowhere in life.

    • ACSutliff profile image

      ACSutliff 7 years ago

      Thank you for leaving me a comment, Damian! I'm glad that you read and enjoyed my writing.

    • damian0000 profile image

      damian0000 7 years ago from Belfast

      Great hub! Very well-written :-)