Motivate students with the WHY

If you want to motivate students, you have to be willing to experiment. What works for one student is not going to work for another. However, I believe that one of the most effective ways to motivate students is to attempt to address any student reservations when it comes to your content. Usually, these reservations involve one word—WHY? The WHY is what keeps them going when times get tough. The WHY is what helps them process the delayed gratification and accept it as a positive.

Leadership instead of Management

Great leaders don’t tell people what to do. They inspire them to make good decisions by teaching the importance of the WHY. Students, like everyone, constantly wonder “What’s in it for me?” Although the value of an education is extraordinary, there is no doubt that even the best students can struggle to stay motivated especially if they don’t find the content interesting. We can’t expect that students will diligently engage every minute of every lesson if they don’t understand the WHY.

While it may seem trivial or time consuming, devoting the time to help students understand the WHY is an important investment. On many occasions, I have had students express to me that they didn’t find my subject interesting and that they didn’t understand WHY they had to take the class. I could’ve been offended and went on a rant about my preparation and the graduation requirements.

Lean into the WHY

Instead, I took the time to address the WHY. I told my students on the first day that the content itself wasn’t what was most important. Instead, it was how they acquired the knowledge and what they did with it that was important. Life challenges us to acquire knowledge and do something with that knowledge every single day. Because I laid this foundation early, whenever I was challenged on the WHY of my content/lesson, I could always direct my students back to what was most important. My students were not always satisfied with my explanations, but they appreciated that I addressed the WHY and didn’t run from it. How do you motivate students? Please share in the comments section.


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