“Motivate” and motivate
Written by Csaba Tőri
19 November 2018
I met a thought-provoking idea in a course that has changed my view about the world: ‘It is impossible to motivate.’
As a teacher this is a pretty bad news, if it’s true – moreover inside of my mind it was occurring immediately: what if this is just tricks with words? What does motivation mean for me, what it could mean for others – isn’t it possible that we simple think of different things?
Then it turned out that there is much to understand in it for me.
In my childhood in the school environment where we were raised up, there was just a few things to do freely in our free-time, and they were mostly obligatory or at least expected behaviours. (Is there anyone who saw the third season of the serial Therapy?
Our motivation towards certain topics couldn’t emerge: we did what we were allowed to do – and what we had to. And after a while we found pleasure in it: not because of the topic itself but instead the reinforcement from outside.
For a young child it is a great experience when the teacher gives full marks them for the well-done tasks, especially if they get chocolate for it, it will bring extra enthusiasm. (I won’t egg you to forget about this. Just in order to understand motivation on a deeper level, we must denude it.)
So, it doesn’t seem to be true that if I look at motivation, look back to my motivation as if I got to like singing, because my teachers induced me to do the right music, and that’s why I felt like doing it. (Once again, I must say it: I am not against giving full marks this way, since it can be an experience for the kids, and they could get love a topic when they understand their structure. I do not even criticize my teachers – I remember to most of my teachers as ones I liked to go to, and later, during my studies I realized that they could teach wonderfully. But it isn’t about motivation.)
The next sentence of this course was: “you can only strengthen motivation in those people where there was a seed of it. If you don’t have tiny little motivation in you towards a topic, there you won’t have it.
You can be motivated in different ways: there is a motivation that comes from outside, when I am working for a purpose, I do something for someone’s sake. And there is an inner motivation, when I do something for my sake, for my pleasure, to make myself happy or to recharge myself back. I think we tend to believe that there are topics where it is impossible, so we accept that for example we need to force ourselves to do long tasks in work, otherwise it won’t be ready at all.
Apart from some of the tasks that are like this, in most of the issues we have more choices than we allow to ourselves.
As a teacher I had to face the fact that pupils are not interested in the things I would like to teach them: they are not interested in that way or time, or at all. As a bad response for that – based on my experience from my childhood –, I thought that there can be only two solutions for that: either I do not teach good enough, interesting enough and I do not raise their attention or I do not expect them enough to take the task seriously. It’s a pity that it takes so much time to realize that although both of them could be true, none of them could bring so much improvement that can solve this problem: most of the kids isn’t interested in this type of education, especially music education anymore that was acceptable earlier for them.
Moreover, the forms of being not-interested-in has changed a lot (fortunately according to my opinion…): earlier the signs of it were supressed with giving respect by not showing it, but nowadays it is expressed much more easier and frankly by both the children and adults. (For example, by falling asleep, or saying nuts according to them).
Of course in an ideal situation a golden mean like one would be fine, but it is not a surprise that after so many decades and centuries where to measure up to the expectation was an absolute norm, in the first liberated moments we throw out the baby with the bath water.
We always want to believe in that the most the processes of civilization go in the right direction. (It would be a pity if we would destroy this, because for example we refer to that there is no climate change)
So returning to the subject: in a lot of situations we talk about motivation, where it is not about it, like we think we are motivated: but at least on the level of everyday duties we work, we could give ourselves to believe that we accept the necessary bad things. We complete the hated homework, read the required readings that are not proper for the age group, and do 3-4 hours overwork even if we do not feel like doing it. And finally, next week we stay at home on sick pay.
It would be so nice for me, if we could start to think about motivation in another way: everybody is interested in something, supposedly that with appropriate compensation all the tasks could be completed, we are enough for doing that.
To stay at my own example: for organizing a concert we need the desire of the singers to come into existence. But among them there will be some people who come for the joy of singing, some because of the exciting piece, and some people because they love others. (About the other dozens of resources of motivation experts who know more could write about it.
As soon as we found (or at least we try to find) these desires, most likely we could be productive, everybody takes part in the common work too with more pleasure.
A hypothesis occurred to me: there can be a world where no one (literally nobody) should do his duty by necessity. This world is far-far away from now, but probably pedagogy would help to reach there, if teachers could become so much attentive.
We started an experiment with one of my classes, after I found an article about disapproving the necessity of grading and replaced it with an evaluation system with scores. The result we experienced was surprising: we could achieve the double amount of the duties than before, although the tasks didn’t change, and the participants were almost the same.
Only one thing has changed: it was not obligatory anymore – if you do not complete it you won’t fail – and I do not need to worry about how to get people to do it if they do not want it. Furthermore: if I am not able to get them to do it – how the others would comment it…
It seems to be true that it works in small. I trust in that it is adaptable for more educational systems. In this topic there are a lot of valuable articles: if you feel motivated a bit, they will increase it.