But you can’t make them learn…
It seems appropriate to be discussing self-regulation and the regulation of others within the context of education on May 9, 2017, National Teacher Appreciation Day as the success of my daily work seems to have come down to how well I get my students to regulate themselves and if I have managed to get myself to do all of my work.
I often tell my students at the beginning of the semester the true tale of my lack of self-regulation when I was a student. I always paid attention in class, took notes, participated in discussion and used a natural test taking ability to pass the tests. As soon as the bell rang, school was over and I stopped doing school work. I never did homework other than reading the books I found interesting. If I couldn’t finish it in class, it was not going to be done and the only time this didn’t get me by was Junior English as I had to take it three times (11th grade, summer school and senior year) because I couldn’t get myself to write the term theme that was required to pass the course until finally it was write or not graduate. I do not hold myself up as an exemplar to my students, my GPA was terrible, but rather offer that I understand how some of them feel about their time in school and that if I was able to overcome this scholarly handicap, they could do so as well.
I discovered in college that I didn’t have any problem doing work outside of class if it was a project or product. I would edit for hours, shoot video at all times of the day, direct radio dramas for fun, because I could see the purpose, the work had meaning. The same is true with culinary as the prep list dictates what will be done that day and everything on the list is there for a reason. So much of the work in school is not for a reason or the purpose is never revealed or even more importantly, not significant to the learner. Posting the class objectives for the day seems useful on the surface because of the same reason it is useful in instructional design: you need to know where you’re going if you’re ever going to get there, but it has been my experience that it is a waste of time. Students don’t want to know what the objectives are, the question they ask is “What are we doing today?” For them it isn’t about the goal because so often they don’t care, they just want to know about the journey.
Students derive self-regulation to an extent from classroom management but it is intrinsic motivation, doing the work of learning because they want to, that is the golden goal, the result much to be desired. For my class that has always been encouraged by having real customers who need real products and are paying real money. The students learn how to do something, make it for someone and receive feedback from their client. My very first semester of teaching my principal came down to my classroom for lunch and expressed real happiness with what he saw: students doing work, enjoying being in school and learning basic workplace readiness skills and it wasn’t that I was some classroom management genius, I just remembered what used to motivate me to do my work.