No, I'm not going to say failure! Although it's a gift at times, it is not a good motivation for life long learning. To be motivated just to make sure you don't fail is a sad, stressful, mind-numbing life. I know, I lived it (see the about page). From observing my students and my colleagues this year, I have seen increased motivation brought on by choice.
I do tend to be a bit of a control freak, but I am also willing to give new things a try and I wasn't disappointed by adding genius hour to my repertoire. Yes, it is a bit looser than what I had been used to, but that, in and of itself, is what is making it motivating to my students; students who are over-scheduled, over worked, and overwhelmed.
When I introduced the concept of genius hour and told students they could learn about anything they were interested in, their jaws dropped. I lost a lot of them that first day. But after some reassurance and a bit of scaffolding, I saw the benefits of choice. Students that had never engaged a day in the entire first half of the year were all of the sudden excited. They talked to me in the halls, emailed me at night, talked about their projects as they are leaving class and were excited about at least one thing in their week.
My struggling students were free to chose interests that are often not covered in their school day. They chose active, hands on, or technology based activities. My high achieving students were motivated to learn something "fun" - drawing, designing, creating rather than always producing, achieving, producing, achieving.
Choice has been even more motivating for me and my peers this year and I point to Twitter as my main example. I have to admit, I'm no fan of PD- the way it is done in most schools anyways. It's kind of what the students experience. We are often taught things we don't care about by presenters who are sometimes ok and other times just plain bad. I rarely take anything from these experiences and often feel they are a waste of time. However, this year, I find myself running home to get on Twitter. Not to check what the Kardashians are doing......but to find out what's going on in the world of education . I see if GAFE has come out with anything new, what's going on with Genius hour and and what my PLN is up to around the country and around the world. I stop everything on Sunday nights to participate in #caedchat. My family knows not to bother me during that hour. So, someone who was lukewarm at best about PD is now seeking it. It has to do with the fact that I have the choice to learn what I am interested in, or what I see is lacking in my skills. No one is forcing me, paying me, making me share out....I'm just learning for the sake of learning - pure motivation. As the year goes on a lot of my co-workers are joining me on this venture. It is truly inspiring.
The freedom of choice touched each and every one of my students this year along with myself and many of my co-workers. Much like the parenting books I read..they say to give kids choice on the things that aren't "important" in order to gain their compliance on things that are - by giving students choice once/week they are more willing to put in effort during the rest of the week - even on things they don't love. I think choice is genius