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The letter below was written by an experienced classroom teacher, at the request of her former ed psych instructor (me, Kelvin Seifert!). Students (and you yourself) may or may not agree with what she says, but her opinions are worth considering and discussing with teacher education students, if only because they are representative of many (though not all) teachers.

Dear Professor Seifert,

OK, you asked me to write you a letter about how I motivate kids in my room. Here goes. First of all, some kids just don't have any motivation for anything. I know you probably disagree, but you don't work with fourth-grade kids every day, and I do. And now that I have had my own classroom for a couple of years, I can tell you that I think you're just wrong about what you told us in the psych of learning class. Here's the thing: Some kids won't do anything unless you give them something. It's just that simple. And I don't blame them. Learning isn't always fun. Some things, like math or learning grammar, are simply boring, but you still have to learn it, and to make sure my kids do learn it, I have to give them something. Sometimes I have to threaten them, sometimes it seems like I have to bribe them, and sometimes I just have to praise them over and over again when they're learning something really awful, like the rules for punctuating complex sentences.

I don't know if this is what you had in mind, but I guess if I had to sum it up, I'd simply say some kids are motivated, but most are not. Usually, you just have to offer something or threaten kids before you can get them to do their work. Frankly, I don't feel bad about it either because they do have to learn dates, and how to add and subtract fractions. It's just not fun. But I get them to do it.

Best regards,

[A Former Student]




- Seifert Seifert Nov 29, 2010