Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Motivate students and hold them accountable..

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John Metallo has a short article in the Albany Times Union of Saturday. August 15, 2015. The entire article can be found here. In under 20 sentences, he pretty much nails the issue regarding student success in school.

The victory of Jason Day in the PGA Championship has reminded me that the road to success has three major parts: decent opportunities, good guidance (instruction), and the will to succeed. Far too often the latter is ignored when it comes to education "reform". I suspect that is because the powers-that-be feel they have no power to change the students' "will", but see an easy route via changing the "guidance" and "opportunities". You know the old theory of "change what you can."

Our New York governor seems to be all over "accountability" for teachers and schools, yet somehow absolves students of any responsibility in the matter.  I fully believe that students have the ultimate responsibility, but I also feel that the adults in their world can do much much more to help them get motivated.

The famous quote (prayer, call it what you wish) goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

This, as a code for life, might seem self-evident, but it is anything but. Taken literally, it can lead to a feeling of complacency. It presumes wisdom, but how do we measure our own wisdom? What if we sense, incorrectly, that there is something that we cannot change? Unless we acknowledge our lack of wisdom, we would be falsely serene.

I believe that, as a culture, we have underestimated our powers to improve student motivation. We have become complacent in that regard, passing the buck to causes we perceive as beyond our control.

Perhaps it is time to address the issue of focusing on student failure over and above school failure. Successfully eliminating student failure would, in essence, eliminate failing schools. Yet, doing such is impossible without addressing student motivation (the "will to succeed").

I hope that I am doing a small part with my work in GeoGebra and my inclusion of some of them in my blog postings. What I do know is that I would make sure that students spent whatever time they could working with GeoGebra, not because it is a panacea for mathematics instruction, but because it could be one of the best motivating factors we have.

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