Motivation - the Teacher's Salt Shaker by Peter Grande

Motivation – the Teacher’s Salt Shaker

Pete Grande Headshot

Dr. Peter Grande is the Executive Director of TLS and a teacher of teachers. Since 1979, Pete has devoted his life to helping teachers and administrators maximize their effectiveness. 

Motivation–a quick review. 

“Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said: “Wouldn’t you like to have that?”

Dale Carnegie said this, and I believe it to be exceptionally true when thinking about engaging and empowering our students. What do they prefer? This is often called the teacher’s salt shaker. You know the old saying “You can lead a horse to water…” and using the teacher’s salt shaker the twist is, “…you can’t make them drink but you can salt the oats.”

What makes up this salt? Here’s a quick list:

  1. Interest–Ask them what motivates or could motivate them.
  2. Success–Success breeds success and task adherence behaviors; Failure promotes task avoidance behaviors–make use of scaffolds–checklists, organizers, word banks tech tools, tiered question–to promote success. 
  3. Involvement/belonging–What do you know about your recalcitrant students? Do they feel like they belong and can add to the class climate or do they just pass through? Use checklists that ask them to self evaluate their learning and engagement to help them own the content and the classroom.
  4. Freedom/Power--students have little freedom/power in schools, except to not engage. Offer them structured choices. Select one or more from this list:
    • What content to focus on
    • When to do it
    • Who to work with
    • Where to do it
    • How to show the learning
    • You can’t offer all of these at once. But could you offer one tomorrow? Remember you set the parameters. It is a teacher structured choice.
  5. Fun–One of the most stated comments about more students returning to the classroom is, “I feel my personality coming back.” or “I can be myself again.” Try and let your personality shine. Most teachers are friendly, engaging people with a sense of humor. Have a little fun. Post a cartoon at the start of class. Show the cat filter video. Assign students to find cartoons/videos that relate to your content to send to you. If approved, have the students share them with the class. Use flippity for some quick fun.

It is important to remember that according to Maslow the need to survive is a motivator that supersedes all of these. This is as true for your students as it is for you. We at TLS recognize that fact, and applaud you for your efforts to care for your students, your family and yourself. We hope there’s one worm here that you can use to bait your hook. 

Peter C. Grande, TLS