Motivation Coalition: The “Obvious” Solution

By: Cameron Brown


Think of two students. One has the full support of his parents, who play a vital role in his education, and the other comes from a household with parents who stay uninvolved with their  child’s life, whether its due to a job or social situation. Which child do you think will succeed in school? The answer seems obvious, yet many schools fail to recognize the connection.

There are many ways to fix our broken education system, and full connection between everyone is key to a successful learning experience. There must be 360 degree parent-teacher cooperation for every student, whether they’re at an A+ level or near failure. Having the support of both parents and educators will motivate and enhance the student’s learning experience.

In the words of educational writer and publisher Mary Sherry, who has written many essays: ¨Parental support in a [child’s] education is an expression of confidence by students¨ (553). Sherry makes a statement that children need that boost of confidence from their parents’ support, which in turn motivates the child to succeed.

In the words of a Hershey Middle School student’s mother Terri Luciano: “My child isn’t the most academically gifted student, so my husband and I went to see his core teachers. We attempted to establish connections with his [teachers], and his grades soared, despite the slight awkwardness he felt.” This mom gave her own input on how the ¨360 degree¨ system worked for her and her son.

We have heard the words of a seasoned writer and a real mother, and in a 2005 Princeton study, staticians studied the intrinsic motivators of a child. This study concerned 200 students aged 13-17, with each group dealing with a certain intrinsic motivator, like self-pride and personal vision.

A year into the study, “parental support” and  “teacher enthusiasm” were found to be the #1 and #3 most effective motivators for children and teens in an academic setting. In fact, 8 out of 10 teens aged 13-17 score a 90 average or higher in English, Mathematics, and Science when their parents are actively engaged in their classes. (Driscoll and Mark)

Have you ever realized that students from families in struggling situations and low-income neighborhoods almost always struggle in their studies?

A person who disagrees with the solution of parental-teacher engagement will point out that it is completely reliant on the household’s socioeconomic status. A related Princeton study monitored the study habits of high-schoolers over a 3-month period across a spectrum of situations. This study found that while disadvantaged students tend to have a more difficult time learning (due to a lack of resources and quality teaching), kids from more advantaged schools tend to be more disengaged and take there resources for granted. In fact, the study suggested that learners from a more struggling situation have more intrinsic motivators and be self-motivating, while the latter prefers more extrinsic motivation (i.e. “the grade”). Now, if a parent – and not a student – is disengaged, that can be supplemented by teacher enthusiasm or guidance from others.

Mary Sherry concludes her position, stating: “[Adhering to] this [solution] means no more doing Scott’s assignments because he might fail. No longer passing Jodi because she’s a nice kid… A wise teacher, with the support of his parents, gave our son the opportunity to succeed” (554). These simple words of wisdom still hint at the fact that the teacher’s old-fashioned no-nonsense attitude towards learning and this boy’s parental guidance assisted him in his success.

Parental engagement and a strong teacher relationship go hand and hand with the student’s learning. A full approach to a parent-teacher coalition will further benefit successful and struggling learners, and benefit their lives in the long term. The solution to student apathy is obvious, and it’s up to our schools to realize and utilize this crucial connection.