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30 July 2012 @ 03:49 pm
words from the wise  
As I was clicking through my Twitter feed this morning, I followed a link to a blog posting about what good schools ought to emphasize. This quote caught my eye immediately:

"Dan Pink reveals that the keys unlocking and sustaining intrinsic motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. As a leader this is the type of teaching and learning culture that I want to foster and cultivate, one where creativity flourishes, students find relevancy and meaning in their learning, and teachers are given the support to be innovative. A teaching and learning culture powered by intrinsic motivation will achieve this."

I have thought (and spoken) quite a bit about intrinsic motivation, and I had the chance again today to do so when responding to one of my students about her assertions about AR (the dreaded Accelerated Reader). Thanks to Daniel Pink's DRIVE, I now have some more in the arsenal when I fire back about this insidious program which purports to be a reading program, a motivational program, and even a program that creates better discipline depending on when you access their web site and what testimonials are posted.

But I do not want to get off o nan AR rant here. Instead, I think we need a broader view. AR is just one component in classrooms that seem to have lost a focus on intrinsic motivation, of creating learners (and especially readers) who learn and read because they enjoy the activity rather than out of the need created by the teacher.

1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. In the case of reading, how much freedom of selection/direction do we provide our kids? So many schools have booklists at each grade level. These sacrosanct lists are used as class novels. Everyone in class reads the same set of books; there is never time for reading of self-selected materials. I will be the first to admit that I have done just this. For me, it was about control, wanting to ensure that everything kids read measured up. I have, of course, seen the light and the need for some CHOICE. What if we all had to read the bestsellers? (I think this is akin to making our kids read books someone else thinks are good for them)

2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. First, note the phrase "something that matters." Does reading matter? Do books matter? Last night was #titletalk, the monthly Twitter chat about books and reading hosted by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp. For an hour, tweets flew back and forth as we talked about how we would launch our reading year when schools reopen. Books and reading matter to the folks who turned off the Olympics and spent time trying to keep up with the blur of discussion that is #titletalk. Now, focus on the getting better. If reading matters to our kids and they desire to get better at it, think of how much easier our task would be.

3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. Why do we read in the real world? (Donalyn calls this reading in the wild) We read to entertain ourselves, to inform ourselves and, I think, to fill some need, some hole, some void within us. Without books, I feel incomplete. How many of our kids feel this way?

So, thanks Dan Pink, for giving me some more to chew upon as I prepare for fall classes and make decisions about books and reading.
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