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“Unmotivated” students are a phenomenon that teachers and parents, alike, claim exists. I believe this to be a misnomer. It is strange to view ‘not doing something’ as ‘doing something’ but, when measuring the behavior of the ‘unmotivated student’ up against that view, a course of action starts to form. It could be said that a good way to measure ones commitment it to look at what you already have. If what a student has is the frustration of teachers and parents, failed classes, and missed assignments then what can be said about what the student is committed to; failure, perhaps? Looking into the matter a bit deeper, it could be possible that failure is the furthest thing from their minds. That is not to say that they don’t ‘get’ something from failure. There are mornings when I don’t get out of bed until the late afternoon. I disregarded the plans I had made and let down people who were counting on me, often leaving a sense of worthlessness or failure. Still, I made a choice and impacted my environment. I acted and I got results that were predictable. The natural consequences of my choice may be unsavory but, I did get something from it. I got control. What if control is the motivation behind ‘unmotivated’ behavior? If a student’s non-participation in class and refusals to comply are motivated by a need for control then something has to occur to give proof that control has been acquired. Would a loss of composure by an authority figure perpetuate the behavior as it could validate the acquisition of control? Whether consciously or unconsciously, we want results and are motivated towards the actions which lead toward probable results. If success in school and relationships occurred as possible, would students then naturally lean toward having that occur? How do you shift the occurrence that the benefits of participation in class, doing homework, and practicing are possible? To this, there may only be this: You can’t. There is, however a possible silver lining to this dilemma. What if all it took to have the behavior disappear is to provide a way for the behavior to be owned. What I’m talking about is having the courage to allow students to experience the consequences. What if a student failing class isn’t necessarily a reflection of the effectiveness of the teacher? What if a student failing didn’t mean that the teacher was a failure? That would definitely remove much of the pressure teachers put on themselves. If that pressure were removed, I assert that it would be less likely for a teacher to lose their composure. I say this because I also assert that the loss of composure is a reaction to the possibility that a failed student equals a failed teacher. Remove that possibility, then you very likely remove the behavior. Stating it another way: Create the possibility that a failed student can still equal a successful teacher then the natural behavior is that of calm and collectedness. There are many theories and studies as to how to make kids ‘do’ things. I think focusing on having kids ‘be’ successes will cause them to do what is consistent with successful students. Maybe one way to have this happen is to relate to students as individuals who are responsible for their actions. Allow them to experience the consequences and not have it mean anything about the teacher. Dialogue with a student who refuses to participate in class could look something like this: I hear you when you say that are not going to participate in class. I understand and accept that that is your choice. However, if you continue to choose this, you will fail my class. You are, in effect, choosing to fail my class and I respect your choice. You are smart and a winner in my eyes and I would much rather see you succeeding in my class. Maybe you will choose that instead. To say that teaching is about motivating students could be, at best, imprecise. Perhaps teaching is simply convincing others that ‘success‘ is a game worth playing, while reminding them that they are already winners. What would classrooms look like, then?