Motivating Students in an All Boys School
There are a lot of reasons that contribute to boys becoming unmotivated students. Grand River Academy is creating an environment that provides extrinsic student motivation for young men to engage with their classes, teachers, and fellow students.
While students are ultimately responsible for their academic achievement, schools are responsible for motivating students to learn by creating an environment that provides extrinsic motivation for students to engage with their classes, teachers, and fellow students. However, not all schools are able to provide this kind of environment. Without a complete understanding of what a child goes through at school, parents might not be able to help, either. They may be in the frustrating position of dealing with an underachieving and unmotivated student, but not knowing the cause.
Why Students Aren’t Motivated
Educators across the country are contending with widespread challenges in teaching boys. While there are a lot of reasons educators are met with boys underachieving and becoming unmotivated students, some causes relate to a student’s home environment. Some relate to the school itself and how classes are conducted, incongruent learning strategies. And some motivation problems are internal. While each student will face his own unique challenges, his attitude may stem from one or more of the following reasons:
- Learned Failure – When students feel that they have tried and failed to achieve, they may feel hopeless that they’ll ever figure out their schoolwork. In other words, they may not try at school because from the start they expect to fail anyway. This can happen when teachers only point out flaws or do not help them understand solutions.
- Difficult Teaching Style – Students may not be able to connect with material well because it is presented in a teaching style that they don’t understand. If teachers are not able to compensate for this and reach out in ways better suited to a child’s learning strategies, this may cause students to disengage.
- Lessons Not Relevant – All students, boys in particular, want to know how they can translate classroom knowledge into their own lives. If they don’t understand how course material is relevant to their own lives, they may not be as invested in it.
- Underestimated Self-Worth – Often fed by failed attempts to do well, a low sense of value or ability can make it difficult for students to be emotionally present in class. Although a student can be incredibly capable, low self-confidence can lead to low academic achievement. Unmotivated boys combat this by shutting down and not caring (or pretending not to care) about classes. Outside pressures (home, sports, or anywhere else) can also distract students from academic achievement.
- Low Classroom Expectations – When a student feels that a teacher does not think he is able to succeed, he’ll set a correspondingly low expectation of himself and not put in as much energy into school.
- Lack of External Support – It is not enough for school to be the only place where a student gets support to succeed academically. If other people in his life (e.g., parents, coaches, friends, etc.) devalue education or the importance of school, this may reshape how a student values his academic achievement.
While these examples represent a student's own interpretation of or reaction to school experiences, teachers and school administrators still have an enormous role in motivating students to learn and shaping a student's attitude and experience while at school. Creating an environment that curtails motivation problems is certainly demanding, and not all teachers, particularly in the public school system, have the resources or support to make that level of commitment to their students. However, it is part of the Grand River philosophy to engage students every way we can to both show them the value of academic achievement as well as develop as a hard-working, critical-thinking individual.
Motivating Unmotivated Students
Grand River Academy believes that any student can thrive in the right environment, and we strive to create a campus that encourages students to find learning strategies that work for them and connect with course material in a meaningful way. We have a number of ways to boost student motivation and help young men overcome motivation problems with school.
- Safe, Structured Environment – For any student to fully engage in class, he has to live in a safe, stable environment. If problems are too big at home, school may not have much meaning. Grand River makes student safety a priority while also providing many productive ways for students to spend their time outside of class through extracurricular activities.
- Social Support – Living among their peers and surrounded by educational role models, students at Grand River Academy's all-boys boarding school are placed in a social circle that inherently values and supports their educational pursuits.
- Teach the Individual – In our small classes, teachers are able to get to know students very well, becoming familiar with each individual’s personality, interests, and learning strategies. All students are different, so it’s important that our teachers understand how each student best learns course material and is able to connect to students on a personal level. Teachers aren’t just lecturers, they’re role models.
- Active Learning & Participation – Students learn best when they are involved in the learning process. This can take form in different ways: interacting with models, pursuing independent research, engaging in classroom debates and discussions, etc. Allowing students to engage with course content in ways that best suits their learning strategies is fundamental in encouraging interest in the class.
- Strong Teaching Staff – Part of a student’s confidence in the course material comes directly from confidence in the teacher. Teachers need to demonstrate that they are competent in their area of study to prove that they are a reliable source of information. We make sure that our teachers are both highly skilled educators and deeply knowledgeable in their fields so our students have the best opportunity to learn.
- High Classroom Expectations – From a student’s first day in class at Grand River, it is very clear what a teacher expects from students in terms of behavior and performance. In turn, students see themselves as more capable of handling assignments, encouraging them to work hard on projects and classwork.