Intrinsic Motivation

When it comes to Love, what causes Love? Is  there a formula, a series of  “to-do”, a manual on how to love something? Is it a question of “I love you because…” or “Because I love you”?

Like many other things in life (such as Love or Electricity) the processes that we cannot see are more powerful than the ones we can measure and calculate. We cannot measure Love nor put a price to it but it is Love for a purpose that drives the inventor to fail 1000 times in making a bulb, it is Love for music or art that drives the composer and the artist to forego a dayjob and concentrate on their masterpiece. It is love for an ideal that galvanised the Civil Rights Movement. What drives Love to take those actions, to believe in those causes? What drives us to risk convenience, our pride, our selfish material gains?

It’s neither the upbringing nor the award. It’s neither the punishments nor the cautions. It’s Intrinsic Motivation that makes one learner more successful than the other. It’s Intrinsic Motivation that pushes teachers like John Taylor Gatto to go on his crusade. It’s Intrinsic Motivation for parents who want to take the homeschooling path. It’s intrinsic motivation that sets the sterling educator apart from those who deserve the sack.

For me, Fish Swim, Sloane Learns.  I cannot help but teach. It’s something as natural as what goes in, must come out. I would be intellectually and spiritually constipated if I couldn’t teach.

What makes a teacher have Intrinsic Motivation? What is the common denominator behind people who have a drive for creation, self-improvement, social engagement? What helps a person become an effective educator?

Imagine if you could teach yourself something –  it would be the most seamless and natural thing to teach someone else. All you have to do is observe children talking about Pokemon or solve a Pokemon quiz among themselves. It is the assumption that if anyone can self-learn, then they can teach.

Self-directed learning = Intrinsic Motivation.

What gets devoured to satiate a curiousity, an appetite, must  percolate, be digested and eventually make its way out. That is why a PhD dissertation is the way it is. It is impossible to not want to output something after the books read, lectures attended, surveys and research done, minds collaborated from undergrad to graduate through those years of postgrad.

What holds all educators back is the mentality of “job security” and a “paycheck”. People become so careful in how and what they do, conforming and obliging that it stunts the creative development and numbs the creative drive to take risks and expand from where we are. What once started as a Love became something measurable by a paycheck.

Love takes many forms including Intrinsic Motivation. If a child’s natural self is not prohibited from self-learning the drive to learn, to self-learn, to self-teach oneself will persevere. If one has the intrinsic motivation to learn, then one can self-learn/teach. A person can continue on that path of devouring learning until bursting at the seams. Once more and more learning is happening, percolating and digested it would eventually need an outlet. Teaching is one such outlet.

In 2006 I attended a teacher training session and I asked the trainer, “What’s the biggest obstacle in training teachers” and she answered, “Many lack intrinsic motivation.”  The question I had kept at the back of my  mind was, “What makes for the lack of intrinsic motivation?”

I was saying in another post that Marketers/Advertising Creative people would make the best teachers because those industries tend to attract people who have the sort of qualities badly needed in education. So I suppose education attracts a different sort of folk, perhaps those  who want to appear to have all the answers, who need the sense of authority a job provides in order to have a sense of identity of who they are.

No wonder teachers are incompetent. A person who cannot learn is incompetent. That arrested development in learning must’ve happened a long time before they finished their schooling. No wonder the minority who are pushing for innovation and reforms have to push that much harder. The learned pushing the less learned empty vessels – you know, those who make most noise.

(The good news is, acceleration always defeats inertia.)


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