I want to talk about motivating students. Currently, I am a middle school inclusion special education teacher. I co-teach two math classes, and two ELA classes everyday, I also teach a pull-out reading class and I push in to other classes when I have open slots in my schedule. The real challenge that I find working with the population that I do is the fact that they know that they struggle more than everyone else, and they’ve had to work twice as hard for 8 years of their schooling. By the time these students get to me, they have worked so hard for so long and many of them are still having a hard time. Some students rise to the occasion and work their tails off for whatever benefit they may find and some find it easier to skate through middle school doing the bare minimum just to get to the next grade.
I have found the best thing that you can do to a child is help them find a win, and then make a big deal about it. I cheer them on like the loudest, wackiest cheerleader that I can be and then hope that my excitement is infectious. Today a student was called on unexpectedly by the general education teacher and after he shared is answer he followed with, “but I think I’m wrong”… but he wasn’t! It was one of the harder concepts that we cover this year and he had the right answer! I was so excited for him and I made sure he knew it, and you know what… it made him happy too. And after that he raised his hand to voluntarily answer a few problems which is something he hasn’t done all year.
Now not every situation is as easy as that. Also that one moment of triumph is not going to take a student who is constantly disappointed in themselves and rebuild their confidence, but I’ve found if you can string together some wins fairly close together and let the student know how awesome that they’re doing; that it can lead to a boost in confidence, even if it only lasts a few weeks.
I wanted to share with you a file that I use to give my student notes of praise.