One Thing You Can Do To Increase Motivation


February 19, 2021

James Parker

I’m reading Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. He has a whole section on choice, and he cites examples such as people with dementia who show remarkable improvement when more choice, however mundane, is added to their lives. Regarding choice, Duhigg writes, “Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control. It’s this feeling of self-determination that gets us going.”

Choice is a cornerstone of Daily 5. If students don’t get to choose their tasks, what they’re doing is not Daily 5. As a school principal, I try to provide as much choice as possible for our teachers:

  • If you’re with your students only a couple of days each week, dial down science and social studies to give them more language arts and math. Onward!
  • Since that performance we do in April doesn’t fit in this year, let’s skip it. Adios!
  • Use the time we would have spent on open house to confer with your students and their parents at the end of the year. Try it!

If nothing else, this year should give educators a free pass to try doing things a different way and to learn by doing.

Obviously children need choice too. The rule in our house is that our kids need to read a paper book (They still make those!) for at least 30 minutes each day. This year, however, my wife and I are letting our kids choose digital and online options, such as Epic and Lexia.

District administrators, what’s a choice you have yet to provide your principals? Principals, what additional choices can you provide your teachers? And teachers, whom we need now more than ever, what choices can we help you provide your students? Here’s to more choices for everyone!


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