: something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act
: correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement
Given the above definitions, motivation is clearly a driving force to act, whereas self-discipline is a regulating force asking a person NOT to act.
This distinction is HUGE.
Since motivation is a need or desire causing you to act, it is essentially limitless. If you are thirsty, you will act until your thirst is quenched. If you are pursuing a field, such as strength training, where your thirst lies in becoming stronger, there is never a point where that thirst is extinguished because you can always become stronger. That force drives you on to act forever without any outside involvement.
On the other hand, I believe that most people that pass today as "motivated" are simply self-disciplined. This is relevant because self-discipline has been shown to be finite and exhaustible. It is believed to be similar to a muscle in that while it might grow tired in a single session of use, it can become stronger and gain stamina over time through training.
If we are labeling some of our students as "unmotivated" when in reality they just have a completely exhausted system of self-discipline, who is to blame for their poor attitudes, behaviors or failures?
Let's be honest, most of school is hardly enthralling. Sitting through most classes is entirely an act of self-control. No one is really motivated at 15 years old to sit through a 90 minute class period on the Russian revolution.
This means that by the time kids get home and are required to do homework, they have already spent a huge amount of finite "control" energy just sitting in class and attempting not to die from boredom. The very act of forcing themselves to sit silently and without moving is a huge requirement in self-control.
Once they've accomplished this feat of willpower over the course of six to seven school hours, they are asked to go home and do homework. Clearly, only the students with the largest amount of "reserves" are capable of doing this. The rest turn on the TV or X-box.
Matching tasks with desires is important if you want self-sustained and indefinite work to be done. I can read for hours or days on a topic I am genuinely interested in, just like I can go to the gym for hours each day because it is something I have deep need to improve at.
The art of finding congruence is certainly quite difficult in the K-12 sector of education. Kids rarely have a desire to do much of anything other than play and socialize with friends. However, this is not the case with higher education.
Higher education has the ability to match a student's desire with the tasks asked of that student. This is usually not done very well, however, and is often a repeat of of K-12. I think this failure to find congruence between student desires and program requirements is what leads to so much dissatisfaction in schools. It is the equivalent of a client asking a personal trainer to help them get a faster 5K time and the trainer having the client get a bigger bench! There is obviously little carry over, yet this is what we do in college all the time.
I want to become a better teacher of English as second language.
Things not desired:
The above bullet points are definitely not all-inclusive. They simply illustrate a few examples of items I could spend an indefinite amount of time getting lost in and a few examples of tasks that require huge amounts of finite self-control on my part.
The short list of topics I don't care to learn also represents close to fifty percent of my graduate program. That means fifty percent of my time is spent on activities that require me to exert huge amounts of energy in simply not quitting. Just getting through the material is a major task, let alone analyzing, evaluating, summarizing, and responding in written format.
CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY
1. Motivation and self-discipline are opposites in behavioral terms
2. Motivation is essentially limitless, self-discipline is finite
3. Most of K-16 education requires self-discipline
4. Students require work that matches their motivation if meaningful work is to be done
This is a topic I just discussed with my mentor teacher at Miramar on Friday. My relationships with students have changed drastically from when I began tutoring in high school and college and I didn't recognize it until quite recently. This requires a bit of background to fully understand.
When I started tutoring, it was to my peers in high school and college. We were the same age and more or less knew each other, at least as acquaintances, if not friends. I also had much longer hair that was poofy and frizzy and weighed about 155 pounds with no facial hair. Now, I mainly tutor people of different ages, who are not acquaintances or friends to begin with, and my physical appearance has changed as well. I keep my hair short (often buzzed), weigh 195 pounds, and usually am not clean shaven. I have also gone from the "B" student and class clown, to an "A" student and quite serious most of the time.
Basically, what this all comes down to is that over the past few years I have gone from being rather boyish and unintimidating to somehow intimidating to many of my students, whether because of physical looks, education level, or seriousness upon getting to work. I have been told this fact by several of my own classmates in the masters program and have noticed it since being made aware within the classroom as well.
Since figuring this out over the last few months, I have made a really big effort to be more approachable. I try my best to be as open and unintimidating as possible and this has been done mostly through attempting personal connections. Rather than launch straight into work (which I view as efficient and the best use of the student's time), I take as much as time as needed for the student to open up and get talking. This can take two minutes ("How was your weekend?") or almost the entire class period.
In the past, I would have seen using so much valuable time talking about personal matters and ignoring the work as a waste, but now I realize that it absolutely is NOT. Even if we don't get to the "real" work today, we will be able to get through much more work in the coming weeks and months. This initial upfront "cost" is actually an "investment" that pays off big down the road. I also don't feel so guilty about letting students get "off task" now, since I know this is just the normal part of getting to know one another. Without taking this time in the beginning, I often spend months without connecting to students and really being able to help them, which turns out to be a much bigger waste of both our times.
In my case, not connecting can often mean students won't learn from me. That is what rapport comes down to. You can be the best teacher in the world (not saying I am), but if students don't like you, respect you, or aren't interested in you, they won't listen. If they don't listen, it becomes really hard to learn.
I'm reading the book entitled Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman at the moment. It was "sequel" to his book Learned Helplessness. It discusses the effects of an optimistic attitude in life on a variety of factors including both psychological and physical health.
Student Perception Is Everything
One aspect that is extremely interesting is that it all comes down to perception. If you believe you are a failure, you are. This is regardless of what reality is taking place around you. The best example in the book so far was a passage that described an experiment with University of Pennsylvania students. They were asked about an upcoming exam and what grade would constitute a failure in their minds. The average response was a B plus!
Obviously, U.Penn. students are very driven and the cream of the crop in academic quality. However, this makes the point to me that teachers do not have to "fail" students on their assignments for the students to believe they have failed. Regardless of what grade you give as a teacher, it is entirely possible that your students will leave believing they have failed. This shouldn't happen, especially in an environment like U.Penn. where essentially none of the students are in danger of "failing"! Just by making it into the school, they should have an overwhelming feeling of success.
The relative-ness of failure is important, because it is the first step in learning helplessness. Seligman has repeatedly shown in studies that any failure induces helplessness for a brief period of time. It is the permanent nature of these failures over time and a person's belief that they can't control it that leads to full on "learned helplessness."
Assess Improvement, Not Absolute
I think this makes a strong case that teachers should take measures to insure that all their students feel leaving successful. If this means that grades are the leading cause of "learned helplessness" in school, then it's time to find another way of assessing students. After all, it should be entirely about relative improvement within a single student that determines success anyway, not some arbitrary grading rubric or class standing.
As I mentioned a couple days ago, I've been interested in minimalism lately as a way to increase the signal-to-noise ratio in my life. It's a way to focus on the important and cut out distractions. One of the biggest challenges I've been having is that of information withdrawal.
On any given day, I normally consume a lot of information. This is normally in the form of RSS feeds, YouTube channel subscriptions, research articles, and books. However, it is also comes in a few other varieties, such as television shows and movies. To me, this is just a form of intellectual consumerism, no different than the person that is addicted to buying new shoes or outfits every day.
There is nothing particularly life enhancing about consuming so much information from a huge variety of sources. It is just a way to cover my own insecurity about knowledge and intelligence. I always figure that even if I meet someone who is naturally more intelligent than me, there is no excuse for not knowing more information than them. It is similar to the athlete that decides they will simply outwork their competitors.
While information knowledge can be really beneficial to people and enhance many aspects of life, at some point it becomes too much. I do not need to know the latest updates on 50 different topics and not receiving those updates shouldn't damage my ego.
Consumption vs. Creation
In fact, cutting out the consumption of information allows for more time to create and produce new information. The hours I normally spend consuming information can now be spent writing and making friends with real people in real life. Or simply enjoying the awesome weather I've been having in my area of San Diego now that it's spring time.
The main point is that information consumption should add to your life, not be a form of anesthesia for an ego that is insecure about looking unintelligent or less knowledgeable than others. I now believe that I will learn and consume all the information I need in the process of creating and helping others learn. If I'm not learning information for a particular use then why bother spending time on it in the first place?
Choosing Information Sources
Since I am now consuming much less, I am also trying to be more effective at choosing informational sources that give me the most "bang for my buck". In other words, I want sources that I can learn many different skills from. Because of this, I am choosing individual persons whom I see as mentors or coaches and who I would like to emulate in the future.
So for me, that has included a very short list so far. They include:
I have chosen them because they are all individuals that have created a strong brand for their own name. They are business owners that basically sell themselves and create their livelihood around writing and teaching others over the internet. Along with a strong online presence that allows them to essentially work from anywhere in the world with just a computer, they are all interested in fitness and health, another avenue I'm very passionate about. Therefore, I can get personal lifestyle design information and business design information at the same time. If I am able to do for education what any of these five people have done in their respective fields, I would be completely satisfied with my professional life.