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#westsideproblem: I take for granted that my students are motivated

So working at a prestigious school on the west side of LA means that I don't face some typical challenges faced by most middle school math teachers. For example, my students don't lack motivation. I have been sitting on this blog post for two months, meaning to post something about it or at least discuss it with colleagues and students, but working where I work, I have been busy organizing a staff musical number instead.

Anyways, the research is a decade old, but the message is clear. When students aren't motivated they don't engage in school. When students don't engage in school, they are less likely to graduate, less likely to instantly become excellent, independent, happy contributors to society (yes I too became a teacher to "make a difference").

While we can't control all the socio-economic factors at play in students' lives, we can try to come up with ways to motivate students while they are at school. The Forbes article narrows the focus to four key important elements of motivation:
Studies suggest that students are more academically motivated when one of four conditions is present: when they feel competent enough to complete the task at hand; when they see a direct link between their actions and an outcome and have some control over whether or how to undertake a task; when the task has interest or value to them; and when completing the task brings social rewards, such as a sense of belonging to a group or approval from someone they care about.
So, if my students are competent angels who see the link between action and effect, find math interesting or at least valuable and receive social benefits from success, why do I need to bother worrying about motivation?

I often feel bored if I don't have something to work on, if I am not improving something in some way, even in a minor way. I need something to think about at 2am! Considering ways to help my kids feel motivated, will serve to help to both improve my teaching and build up the relationships I have with my students. I also have a side job helping future teachers, current undergrads, make sense of the career. My college students worry about motivating young people, as well they should, as most likely they won't be starting their careers teaching in a school like mine.

I don't have succinct solutions to addressing the four factors for motivation a this very moment. Teaching can be a complex career to master when you consider all the requirements, professional development being an important one (they're all important ones). So, perhaps just considering motivation is enough. Perhaps just considering it will help me to improve day by day. As I say each spring, next year I'll have everything juuuuust right.