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Motivation in the Classroom If every teacher was motivated, our society as a whole would have become more productive than it is today. I can remember back being in high school math classes 50 years ago with teachers who were far less than desirable and it caused at least three of my fellow students to fail and come back the following year. I only survived because I hired the best tutor I could find to help me pull my socks up before it was too late. As teachers, we have an obligation to do a good job, just as a pilot has an obligation to do his job well. So how do we do it? Well, from where I sit, it would be a lot easier to answer this question if I had some teaching already under my belt. For me, everything to this point is only theory and could be right or could be just hot air. We can only theorize at this point so let’s look at it objectively. Looking back at 1974, I can evaluate what those teachers lacked, which made the students perform so poorly. The first thing that comes to mind is the class wasn’t all involved in the work. There were only three students that were ever called upon. There was the beautiful girl who sat beside the teacher. There was the rich obnoxious kid whose overbearing nature got him involved and there was the math nerd whose whole life was just studying. It seemed as though the teacher didn’t want answers from anyone else. He certainly didn’t want to have to explain in detail how to get the answers and as a result, the homework we didn’t complete at home didn’t get explained the following day in class. The teacher had his pets and didn’t care that so many people in his class were failing. So from that we can deduce that it certainly behoves a teacher to engage all of the students equally and to ensure that they all understand, before moving on. We were not motivated to go to that class and dreaded the time we’d spend there. From my personal checkered background, the next thing that I can dig up is about using technology or not to our advantage to get the message across. We’ll go back in time now to 1976 in the Canadian North. I had been in an aviation college program for two years and had about 2 months left before graduation. We were flying light twins at the time and also doing instrument training. As is quite often the case, the flying club which had been contracted by the college to do the training had hired low-time, new flight instructors and that certainly is not the best option for something complicated. To make matters worse, the planes they had bought to train us on had the oldest avionics in them from the 1950s or early 1960s. They had what was called a barrel DG. A Directional Gyro is normally like a vertical round circle with a 360 degree compass rose on it. Turning right increases numbers, the higher numbers being to the right, and turning left decreases numbers, the lower numbers being to the left. These planes had what was called barrel DGs. A barrel DG was shaped like a barrel on its side and bobbed around like a compass in liquid. There was no way of realizing your position with relation to the station on it and you could never figure out which way to turn. To compound matter you had a 250 hour pilot trying to teach you and he had no experience. The result was no one was passing their check rides with the government inspector. With two weeks to go before the course was over, I was called into the office and told I was out of the course. That ended my fixed wing piloting career. They disappointed me so much that I never pursued that career again. A few years later I did spend my own money and pass the instrument course they had tried to teach me but by them I had other things on the go. There are a lot of technological advances and ideas we can use to help us help others in the classroom. Part of wanting to excel at something is knowing that we are doing well, will do well in the future, and are having fun at the same time. I’ll try to name a few here: • Whiteboards • Electronic whiteboards • Laser pointers • Posters (747 cockpit for aviation English) • Pictures from interesting pasts • Board games to get people involved • Use of video recorders for role play • Use of voice recording devices for checking pronunciation and grammar • Coloured chalk or markers • Videos, DVDs, podcasts, or YouTube • Having students assist with handouts • Even distribution of student participation throughout the class • Getting shy people involved by partnering in groups • Getting to know the students better • Having realistic performance goals • Engage the students as much as possible • Allow students to choose topics that interest them • Don’t criticize the performer, but rather the performance • Show students the appeal of the subject and be honest, not effusive, with praise • Help students to find their own reasons for motivation • Give feedback and offer areas for improvement • Allow a track of progress • Use friendly competition in games • Get out of the classroom sometimes • Don’t over-correct • Change up the dynamics of the class so that the same students don’t always work together • Get them out of their seats for group interaction • Make sure your instructions are very clear • By working outside the textbooks you will show that you are making an effort to succeed These are but a few tried and tested methods but are by no means all that can be used to keep students motivated. With any luck I’ll be able to try some of these out in the near future and see how well they work. My first teaching position might be this month in Saudi Arabia for one week, teaching aviation ground staff how to improve their aviation English. Hopefully I’ll do better than my teachers from long ago.