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Keeping them motivated

As we embark on Term 4, one of the most challenging aspects of finishing the year well is ensuring our students remain motivated. We all want our young people to have the drive to complete their work, to behave and feel a sense of achievement in our classroom. We want them to finish the year well under our guidance. But it’s often not that easy, and they lose motivation.


Motivation is influenced by the satisfaction of needs. More specifically, in the school context, it’s about belonging. Inside the classroom, when our student’s needs are met, and they belong, it will drive them to behave and engage in the tasks more readily. But motivation is dynamic; it will change minute-to-minute and day-to-day. As Zig Ziglar said, “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily”. To respond to these variations, it’s crucial to leverage the relationship you’ve worked hard to establish over the last three terms. This creates intrinsic motivation and is more powerful than the carrot versus stick approach to see the year out. Putting up threats and rewards, and trying to compel our students to action, will potentially only motivate one person at best. And that’s you. Some psychologists have argued that punishments and rewards have the same limited effect because they are manipulative. They create an environment where people feel controlled. This feeling creates compliance at best, and we won’t see our young people go up and beyond where they’ll do good things because they genuinely care.


Offering incentives, rewards and punishments that take effect in the last couple of weeks of school may not make much sense to kids today. Threatening that a student can’t attend camp in the last week of term or won’t graduate isn’t going to motivate ten weeks of exceptional behaviour and drastic behaviour changes. It will give you a week at best. And let’s say you put the ultimatum on the line to either improve or don’t attend; think about the worst case, and what do you do with them when their behaviour is still sub-standard? You’ve still got them on your watch for nearly a quarter of the year.


There is still a long term learning ahead, so don’t rely on outdated methods and tricks to motivate your students. Put away the carrots and the sticks and replace them with a part of you. It’s a strong relationship that will create a highly motivating term that you all enjoy.

Check out other articles Simon has written here.