Issue 07 | May 18, 2012 | Motivation
We have all faced setbacks in our lives. When this happens, we have two options. We can give up, or we can move past them, and in doing so, often achieve far more than we ever expected. This week, the stories of two students who did just that.
The topic of "underachieving" is a tricky one, because in reality, if we did all the things that we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. In a sense, we are all underachievers. Just to make it more difficult, what motivates one student would totally stall another. You will see what I mean in the stories of the two NARHS students below. If you are concerned about the lack of motivation in your child, two MUST READ books are these:
- Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Enjoy Helping Others Excel by Alan Loy McGinnis
- Motivating Underachievers by Carolyn Coil (www.piecesoflearning.com)
"Scott" (not his real name, but the story is true) was an 18-year-old student diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome whose social anxieties blocked any success in traditional school settings. When I asked the family to bring him to my office so I could help set up a graduation plan for him, it took Scott 20 minutes to get up the courage to open the yard gate leading to the office door. When I met with him for the first time, Scott could barely speak to me or look me in the eye.
Now, four years later, Scott has graduated and is holding down a job. How was this accomplished? We took his passion - World War 2 - and designed as many courses as we could that focused on what he loved. He read literature about the time period, battles, generals, and countries involved. For science, he developed power point presentations on the development of weapons, artillery, ships and aircraft. For social studies, he drew maps showing advancing and retreating armies, with explanations of the action. The foreign language he studied was of course German. For fine arts, he completed a course of "music appreciation" where he compiled the scores and words of songs written during the era.
Of course, math is not a course that is easily contoured to fit unit studies such as this. But as Scott began to feel successful with his learning, he developed the courage to try a book study again. As the two years passed, Scott became relaxed enough to greet us when he entered the office; we could tell that something was changing inside.
After watching the transformation of Scott, I truly believe this statement by Carolyn Coil: "Motivation and success go hand-in-hand. Success breeds motivation and motivation brings success. In fact, before any student is willing to learn, he or she must believe that he or she can succeed."
Featured Student: Jonathan Walker
Jonathan Walker, a NARHS senior from Virginia, is one young man who is motivated by circumstances which would very likely shut down other aspiring athletes. In his elementary years, he had played on many sports teams which had won championships and major recognition. He was talented and competitive, but by age 11, he told his dad that he would like to try an individual sport. Mr. Walker suggested tennis. Younger and older Walkers practiced together. When Jonathan felt ready, he entered a tournament but did not do well at all. Rather than giving up, Jonathan found the results stimulating to his competitive edge. He threw himself into the sport and his natural talent was honed to such extent that he was eventually able to play on a national tennis circuit. He has trained in Johan Kriek's (#7 in the world) Tennis Academy and played some of the greatest around the world, including matches at Wimbledon last year.
The bigger the stage, the better Jonathan gets. Home schooling since 8th grade has allowed Jonathan the 3 hours a day (minimum) needed for practice. Being trained by Johan Kriek for the past 2 1/2 years has produced life lessons as well. Tennis is both physical and mental. Out-of-control stress can make or break the game regardless of the player's skill level, so Johan teaches how to keep calm under stressful situations. The world travels and interesting people Jonathan has met have definitely broadened his view of life. Not surprisingly, Jonathan's tennis skills as well as his quality academics have landed him scholarships at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina next year, where he will begin his studies in nursing.
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