If not reminded, and reminded often, your students will naturally slip into believing that school is just something they’re supposed to do.
They never consider that school doesn’t need them, individually anyway, but that they need school.
So many students approach their education as if it were the other way around, as if their school is lucky they showed up on time.
This attitude can cause students to take their education for granted, to see it as a grind, as something they’re forced to do rather than what it is:
An opportunity of a lifetime.
Doing anything begrudgingly, anything with the specter of having to do it hanging over your head, can be a dangerous thing. Because it saps vital energy, creativity, and motivation. It makes students feel as if school is being done to them, rather than for them.
So they walk into your classroom like they’re heading for the salt mines—reluctant, sleepy-eyed, resigned to their fate.
When students lose track of its wonderful benefits, they begin seeing school as a negative, as something to endure, and if all possible, avoid.
So they goof off when they get a chance. They shutter their mind to learning. They attend to their daydreams, distractions, and the enticing call of misbehavior.
Your words, then, carry little significance, urgency, or interest to them. The colors of the classroom turn muted. They melt into their seats. The idea of personal responsibility is no more than a vague concept.
Worst of all, they develop a growing sense of entitlement.
Of course, if you’re a regular reader of this website, then you know that when students like you and trust you and enjoy being a member of your classroom, everything becomes easier—from motivation to listening to rapport-building to managing behavior.
But along with this powerful force is the importance of ensuring that your students never lose track of why they come to school.
It is the ‘why’ of school, after all, that cracks ajar the gates of learning. It is the ‘why’ that provides the initial spark of motivation that unlocks hearts and minds, giving you the opening you need to grab your students by the lapels and pull them in.
It is the ‘why’ that enables students to feel the first ounce of responsibility upon their shoulders. It is the ‘why’ that points out the truth to the expression, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” It is the ‘why’ that makes them realize that they need school.
So how do you do it? How do you get the message across?
You tell them. You tell them every day why they’re there, why what they’re doing is important, and why what you have to offer them is a most precious gift.
“Good morning room three! Welcome to another beautiful day of learning. It’s my job to give you the best education you can get anywhere, and I plan on doing just that today. But it’s your job to think, read, listen, participate, and give the very best of yourself and your proud family name, so you can take advantage of the many opportunities that good education provides . . .”
Coming from someone your students like and admire, and delivered with passion, this simple message—which will vary in depth depending on grade level—can be powerful and deeply impressionable.
It puts their day-to-day, to-and-from school existence into perspective, infusing it with purpose and direction and underscoring the worthiness of learning’s pursuit.
It causes students to see beyond their current place in the world, no matter how challenging or difficult, and into a high-def technicolor vision of their future.
It alters their view, wakes them of their unrealistic fantasies, and places upon their heart a true path to their hopes and aspirations.
It sets ablaze the desire to not just accept the gift of their education . . .
But to reach out and take it.