Monday, August 16, 2010

Tapping the Motivation of Teachers and Students: Dan Pink Drives a School in New Directions

This past summer we took a bit of a gamble at my school. As we prepared to launch a pilot program for a culminating senior project, we used a couple hundred dollars in donated funds and purchased Daniel Pink's Drive for our rising seniors to read over the summer. We also tapped some professional development funds to purchase a few copies of Pink's book for our teachers. The result has been a more positive and energized beginning of school than I have experienced in a long time.

After reading Drive over the summer, we scheduled a FedEx Day for our faculty to break up the usual deadening monotony of pre-opening of school in-service meetings. Our hope was that our faculty would gain some sense of the internal motivation we can sometimes forget to spark in our students (or even drive into hiding). I have to admit, I had more than a few trepidations. The result, I'm glad to say, was nothing short of amazing. The teachers were given a few brainstorming tips (pursue your B-side was one, borrowed from Marco Torres's workshop at BLC 10 that I attended this summer), then asked to produce "overnight" some sort of creative project. Three teachers who might not normally get together came up with a plan for a "food revolution" at our school. One teacher made a video illustrating a short story he teaches. A couple of teachers blogged, one about her recent 30-plus labor delivering her baby daughter, another about the post-graduation habits of twenty-somethings. I was most moved by the letters written by a Teaching Fellow to his family reflecting on life going on after the death of his mother and the return to watercolor painting by our librarian who had literally boxed up her paints and brushes for twenty years. The librarian touched on the essence of self-motivation when she said "the hours just flew" when she was painting. Another teacher, who spent her FedEx day sprucing up our girls lounge, said in our teachers' reflections: "The things that you are truly motivated to learn will never feel like work." (See below for a glimpse of their comments.)

Meanwhile, over the summer, our seniors have been blogging about Drive. They are addressing the issue of motivation as they face one of the most challenging moments of their lives, applying to college, finishing up their senior year of high school, and creating sustainable senior culminating projects for the first year of our pilot project. These gutsy seniors have questioned everything from grading to the time given for working on meaningful projects. Several of them faced off with faculty in a panel discussion about what provides meaningful motivation in the classroom (more on that later -- I hope to have a video clip up soon).

Dare I say that we as a faculty and senior leadership are committed to a year of the pursuit of what matters -- creative exploration of what DRIVES us?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Need your input!

First, Second, and Third Grade teachers are exploring classroom uses of the iPod Touch this summer. I've created a Wiki for resources and comments and I'd like to invite you to contribute your thoughts about the iPod Touch too. We're really interesting in apps you're using and ways you've integrated this device into the classroom. Here's the link and thanks for your help!