July 2008 Archives

I don't think a day goes by when I don't see another story about the price of gas--the way it's affecting school districts, the economy, family vacations, and lifestyles in general. Take this story in the Los Angeles Times. It says that for the first time in nine years, gas has taken over apparel as the top expense for teens, according to a survey by Junior Achievement. Although gas prices have begun to level off and even drop slightly, they're still high and will most likely remain that way for awhile. I'm interested to see how this shift in expenses ...


This story by teacher Jennifer McDaniel is a great read for anyone aspiring to be an educator or mentor. McDaniel says that when she began to rock climb, even though she wanted to reach the top of the wall, and she listened to her instructor's directions, it was very difficult for her to succeed in scaling the wall. Although she was listening very closely and trying her hardest, she kept making mistakes, which in turn made her instructor frustrated and impatient. The experience made her realize how important it was to have teachers who believed in their students and didn't ...


This story from the Associated Press is one part good and one part not-so-hot news for educators about girls and math. According to the article, girls and boys score equally well on math tests in every grade from 2nd through 11th, but the stereotype that boys are better at the subject still persists in the mindset of teachers and parents, which can have devastating effects on motivation levels for girls. The stereotype that boys are better at math has been fueled, at least in part, by suggestions of biological differences in the way little boys and little girls learn. Regardless ...


Back in April, we posted a blog entry about Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, delivered a "Last Lecture" about achieving childhood dreams. Pausch, who expanded his lecture into a book, appeared on Oprah, and inspired millions of people with his message, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last Friday. Now might be a good time to revisit his lecture, in remembrance of this man and his timeless message....


This story from The Sacramento Bee is a great follow-up to yesterday's post about the relationship between motivation, mentorship, and parental involvement. In the program described in the article, school counselors visit struggling students' homes to sit down with them and their parents and talk about ways to keep them motivated. The house calls encourage a relationship between the school and the parents, and keep everyone in the loop so they can work together to keep the student on track. I've never heard of something quite like this before, and the results are largely positive, according to the article, which ...


This commentary on edweek.org boils down four factors, which the author, Leanna Landsmann, calls the four M's, that make high-achieving, low-income New York City high school seniors into college-goers: mentors, moxie, motivation, and Moms. To me, the four factors she outlines are inseparable, and all have to do with motivation. Students who have mentors, especially parents, who help encourage them to aim high and persevere despite the sometimes enormous obstacles standing in their way are much more likely to be motivated to do well in school. Similarly, I think the moxie Landsmann refers to speaks to an inner desire ...


Here's another example of a summer camp that aims to introduce kids to opportunities they may not have the chance to experience during the school year. The Ohio-based program is called Camp Invention, and it fuses hands-on activities with science, math, history, and the arts. The most recent week of the program focused specifically on combining science and entrepreneurial skills, something I think is key for success in today's global economy, but which teachers often do not get the opportunity to specifically address during the school year. In my opinion, through programs like this one, there's great potential to spark ...


I have mixed feelings about this AP story, which is about a library that has set up a place for kids to play video games. On the one hand, I do think it's a great way to draw kids into the library and expose them to what it has to offer, but being a reader at heart, I can't help but wonder if it might encourage some potential readers to skip over the books and other resources the library provides in favor of more easily accessible entertainment. This library in Arizona is part of a new project launched by the ...


This commentary on edweek.org is all about the importance of motivation in closing the achievement gap. It's a good read that pulls together a lot of what we talk about here on this blog. Check it out....


Every year around this time, the debate over how harmful summer is to students' academic achievement pops up. But I would argue that although students may not be in class, taking notes and studying for tests, the three-month break provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience hands-on learning, which can often bring into focus what they've been learning about in school and re-energize them for a new school year in the fall. For example, take a look at this project in Philadelphia, where students gather for six hours a day to tend to a small farm at their school. ...


I'm very interested to see how the 2008 presidential election affects the motivation levels of students this year. As this article in The Washington Post talks about, the 18-24 age group is notorious for being politically apathetic, particularly those who haven't gone to college, but some are hopeful that that might change. I know this is an issue that doesn't directly affect most high school students, since only a small percentage of them can participate in the voting process, but I do think a presidential election is one of the most exciting things that happens in this country, and even ...


Here's a commentary up on edweek.org that once again tackles the question of how grades affect student motivation. The author, Paul Barnwell, makes the point that grades don't always reflect how much students learn. For example, a student who comes into a class with a broad base of knowledge and ends up with an A may actually have learned less than a student who comes in knowing less and actually studies more, but ultimately earns a lower grade. The emphasis should be on how much a student learns, rather than what grade he or she earns at the end ...


There's an AP story up today about the way one program in New Hampshire is motivating students to eat healthier. The program, called Early Sprouts and developed by Keene State College, works on the observation that kids are more likely to eat their vegetables if they have a hand in growing them. In the 24-week program, kids learn how to grow vegetables and then engage in a sensory exploration of the vegetable before cooking it and eating it. The creators of the program have noticed that when students go through the program, they are far more likely to try new ...


This commentary on edweek.org is a good example of how classes outside of a core curriculum can have a major impact on students' motivation levels in all classes. The author, Patrick Boyle, talks about how taking a few film classes in high school sparked a love for movies and opened the door to an interest in history and culture. He says: A new world had been unlocked for me, and it wasn’t simply cinematic. Each film was a research project; I wanted to understand the cultures and time periods that produced the film. Chiefly, this led to a ...


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