The Two Types of Motivation: Thoughts on the First Day of School 2017

The kids are off on the bus again. Another first day of school in the books. Tomas is in 8th Grade now, and DC is in 4th. In two weeks, MC will join DC on the bus for the first time as she goes off to Pre-K.

As always, this is a time I think back to what I was going through at this time in my life compared to what my kids are going through. And because I have this blog, I share those thoughts with you. Aren’t you lucky?

8th Grade was a big year for me. It was the year I moved schools from New Jersey to Pennsylvania in a sort of surprise move. (I left all my friends in 7th Grade fully expecting to see them all for 8th Grade. And then we moved unexpectedly over the summer.) I was put into all honors classes, except for English. The new school district (Council Rock) thought a great deal of their honors English program, and they didn’t believe I’d be able to cut it. So I was in Mr. Kosmo’s class for the year. He was the first teacher to ever tell me he thought I wasn’t good enough to succeed in honors. (Actually, the only teacher. Ever.) At the end of the year, he refused to recommend me to go up to honors the next year. His reason?

I couldn’t write well enough.

Honestly, I have no idea if he had cause to say that or not. I don’t remember what my writing was like at the time. I’d like to think it was pretty spiffy, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then again, I got straight A’s in honors English when we decided to override his recommendation and enroll me in it anyway, so you draw your own conclusions.

I’ve heard of other teachers doing that to students over the years. Telling them they’ll fail. Encouraging them to aim lower. To not apply to the hard schools. To settle. And I just don’t understand that mindset.

Compare that to my experience in college, when I took Writing for Children and Teens from Louise Plummer. I had a great time in the class, and she was encouraging across the board. She helped students write better. Told them they could succeed. I remember sitting in her office, asking her if she thought I could ever get a book published. She smiled and nodded. “Of course, Bryce! You’ve got it!”

I don’t know if she told that to all her students. She might have, and I wouldn’t see anything wrong with that. But she told it to me, and it gave me the self confidence to keep going. To keep writing. To try to succeed.

Ironically, both those experiences with teachers motivated me. Mr. Kosmo made me want to prove him wrong. Professor Plummer wanted me to prove her right. Speaking from experience, I prefer the latter.

In any case. That was my 8th Grade. Math with Mr. Larsen. Band with Mr. Z. I made one group of friends early on. By the next year, I had almost a completely different set of friends.

My kids are going through life differently, of course. By this point in my life, I was into my . . . fourth school district? Something like that. My kids are all still in their first. (And I’m hoping it remains that way.) On the surface, I think back to how life was for me back then, and I don’t think things have really changed. But then I think about all the changes in technology, and I realize how wrong I am.

In any case, here’s hoping they have a lovely school year, full of the right kind of motivation.

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