Sympathetic Motivation

Sympathy Drives Motivation to Teach

These teacher-student connections provide opportunity for a teacher to know students in a more realistic and multidimensional way than would be the case without such mutual trust. They create a foundation for addressing issues and problems in a positive and productive way. They attend to the human need to know and be known. Teacher-student connections also pave the way for the teacher to build a collection of disparate individuals into a team with a common cause—maximum academic growth for each member of the group.

Engagement

There is a clear link, of course, between understanding and engagement. It’s difficult to invest over time in content and ideas that feel inaccessible or estranged from personal experience. Engagement in the classroom results when a student’s attention is attracted to an idea or a task and is held there because the idea or task seems worthwhile.

Students become engrossed because the task is enjoyable, or because it seems to provide them with the power of competence or autonomy, or because it links with an experience, interest, or talent that is significant to them, or because it is at the right level of challenge to stimulate rather than frustrate or bore them—or likely because of a combination of these conditions.

When students are engaged, they are more likely to concentrate, remain absorbed with a task, persist in the face of difficulty, experience satisfaction, and feel pride in what they do. Conversely, lack of engagement leads to inattention, giving up, withdrawal, boredom, and frustration, anger, or self-blame.

Sympathetic Responses

Eduversity teacher’s response to student needs includes the following:

Confidence in the students’ capacity to succeed through hard work and support what Dweck (2008) calls a “growth mindset”; the conviction that it is the students’ committed work rather than heredity or home environment that will have the greatest impact on their success.

Respect for the students, who they are, and who they might become; a desire to know the students well in order to teach them well; awareness of what makes each student unique, including strengths and weaknesses; time to talk with and listen to the students; a message that the classroom belongs to the students, too; evidence that the students are needed for the classroom to be as effective as it should be.

Working hard to make the classroom work for the students and to reflect the strengths of the students in it; enjoyment in thinking about the classroom, the students, and the shared work; satisfaction in finding new ways to help students grow; determination to do whatever it takes to ensure the growth of each student.

Important, worthy, and daunting things for the students to do; a sense of new possibilities; a sense of partnership; roles that contribute to the success of the class and to the growth of the students; expectation of and coaching for quality work.

An ethic of continual growth; no finish line in learning for teacher or students; no excuses; figuring out what works best to support success; the message that there’s always another way to approach learning.

Watching and listening to students carefully; using observations and information to make sure each student has consistent opportunity to learn and succeed; working to see the world through the student’s eyes; asking what’s working and what can work better.

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