Motivating 21st-Century Students

Saji Varghese

Principal, Rajagiri Christu Jayanthi Public School, Kochi, Kerala

A 4-year old of the 21st-century enters school empowered with knowledge of the ‘3 Rs’ including diverse skills such as manoeuvring gadgets used by adults and driving hard bargains with the logic that is impossible to beat, all with utmost confidence and enthusiasm. How to retain that enthusiasm and empower the students is an immense challenge for today’s teacher.

The primary goal of a teacher is not only to empower students enough so that they succeed academically, socially, and emotionally, but also to ensure that they take ownership of their own learning and remain independent lifelong learners.

There are instances when the enthusiasm for learning degenerates into a struggle with school work. With lethargy writ large upon their faces, the disinterested students often indulge in absenteeism and behaviour problems. Coupled with pressure from home and school, some simply give up.

How to rekindle the joy of learning?

Of course, the teacher must be joyously motivated all year long to be able to pass on the enthusiasm. Also, the teacher must ensure that the children see that she is there to help.

The diversity and requirements of each student must be respected. So, parents and educators have to examine what has worked and what has not, before embarking on anything new.

Reach out to previous teachers. They are very reliable sources of information but use that knowledge judiciously. Every year is a new beginning for a child, and you could be the help he is looking for to make a fresh start.

Reach out to parents. Find out their child’s interests and listen to any previous interventions that might have helped in the past.

Establish positive behaviour support. Seek help from other teachers. See what they are doing and follow their advice.

Use a 5:1 approach—5 praises to 1 re-direction. Everyone needs a tonic, be it an appreciative pat, praise or nod now and then. They might not be getting it at home. Let the praises be genuine and sincere.

Find out what motivates them. Right from the start, survey their interests and keep an inventory. Today’s children have very short attention spans. Have constant breaks in your class. Enliven the lesson by allowing them to listen to relevant music. Let them sit in special chairs. Give them an important post for a day. Treat them to free reading time or drawing time. Give them extra recesses, extra candies, stickers, and small toys. All of this can help.

Above all, persevere and meet your goal. Remember that as you are building up those who are under your care, you are building yourself up too. Your students might forget what you have taught them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Saji Varghese

Principal, Rajagiri Christu Jayanthi Public School, Kochi, Kerala