Friday, February 5, 2016

Bring the Pizza

Yesterday we were working with a group of amazing Q-Team students at Chaney High School in Youngstown, Ohio. These students have already cooked up a number of school level changes that have had a huge impact on their learning. One example is a dress code change that has reduced the silly friction that can be the battle over arbitrary dress code violations and resulted in increased instructional time for all students. While students (as teenagers ever will) continue to stretch the boundaries of the dress code, the overall improvement has had benefits for both students and teachers.

The team turned its attention toward classroom engagement as they reviewed a building aggregate of iKnow My Class survey results. Small groups reviewed the results, looking for recommendations they might make to their teachers. As we debriefed, several students suggested that their teachers needed to do more to motivate students to learn. They were essentially asking that their teacher get better at pep talking them into wanting to learn. I asked: "What motivates you to eat? Why do you go looking for food?" The students all responded: "Hunger." I offered the following:

I think motivation, like hunger, comes from the inside. The only real motivation is self-motivation. You have to want to learn, want to be successful in school. Here is what a teacher can do: What happens if I start talking about pizza...really good pizza...with stringy mozzarella cheese and amazing
sauce....what happens? Maybe you start to realize you are hungry, when just a minute ago you didn't realize you were. I can do things and say things to make your hunger grow. Have you ever just eaten and you watch one of those cooking shows? How can I be full and still feel hungry??

I think what effective teachers do is talk about pizza. Better still they bring in pizza and have the aroma fill their classrooms. Hunger comes from inside, just as the desire to learn does. But teachers have a responsibility to develop lessons that help students realize just how hungry, how curious they really are. Real world relevance can do that. Connecting learning to students' aspirations can do that. Project-based approaches can do that. There are many kinds of pizza!

I suggested to the Q-Team at Chaney to not ask their teachers to motivate them, but to work with them to bring more pizza into their classroom.

No comments: