Posted in education

Motivating Young Adolescents

“Carrots and sticks won’t make middle schoolers learn.” ~ Rick Wormeli


I’ve recently been introduced to the work of Rick Wormeli.  I first met him on a district professional learning day.  After listening to him speak I purchased the book, Fair Isn’t Always Equal.

If you have not read any of this gentleman’s work, please do so.  You may not agree with all he has to say, but I promise you that he will challenge your thinking.

Recently I read his article on Motivating Young Adolescents  (published on the ASCD website) with the leadership team at one of my campuses.   This article is based on the principle that we need to rethink how to motivate our middle-grade students.

I started teaching middle-school after several years in a high school.  I knew the curriculum would be different, and I knew the cognitive level of the students would be different, but I was a little surprised and how different these 11 – 14-year-olds were then their 15 – 19-year-old counterparts.

Manipulation Vs. Motivation

I had so many AHA moments from this article, but I am always drawn back to this one idea. Are we manipulating students to control their actions, or are we motivating them as learners?

Let that sink in.

Raising innovators means we need to focus on motivating our students. Growing these curious beings and helping them find their own way in this world.

I had an professor once who asked us to find our favorite educator quote. Mine was “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ William Butler Yates

Thoughts to ponder on a random Wednesday – are we doing this in our classrooms? Are we trying to pour into a bucket, or ignite a spark?

~ Doris