Friday, July 29, 2011
Can you nurture students' enthusiasm?
We would like to nurture the enthusiasm of students, children, coworkers and ourselves. An enthusiastic life is simply a better life. But enthusiasm is synonymous with intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within. How can we build enthusiasm, intrinsic motivation, in others? We can't.
Instead of "building" enthusiasm in others, we can nurture enthusiasm in others. Here are some ways.
- Model enthusiasm. Smile. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious. Infect others.
- Recognize enthusiasm. I'm not talking here about praising enthusiasm so that a student behaves enthusiastically (false enthusiasm) for the reward of praise (i.e., extrinsic motivation). Rather, I'm suggesting recognizing enthusiasm in a student so that she can also recognize it and associate the enthusiasm with the enjoyment she's feeling in the moment.
- Take interest in the enthusiasm. Talk about it with the student.
- Communicate the benefits of nurturing one's own enthusiasm, the benefits of hope and patience.
- Encourage enthusiasm by suggesting or allowing ways to combine the enthusiasm with responsibilities. In a writing class, for example, can the enthusiasm be the subject of a project or paper?
- Provide opportunities to follow the enthusiasm. One of my fond memories of high school chemistry class was that Mr. Battenhouse allowed me to come into the lab after school and do some of my own experiments. The experiments didn't do much to expand mankind's knowledge, but I sure enjoyed melting stuff, burning stuff and causing reactions.
- Teach enthusiasm appreciation through such things as Emerson's quote, "Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without enthusiasm."
- Help your students understand their feelings: although feelings arise involuntarily, they are just thoughts and can be changed by changing their minds. Help them to choose their positive thoughts and enthusiasms.
- Avoid those things that destroy enthusiasm such as boredom, loss of control, frustration and fear. But since these will never be entirely eliminated from their lives, help students overcome the enthusiasm killers.
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