My son, Theo, was a good student in high school. He did what was expected and made the grades that he needed to keep his iPhone. He was motivated by his social and athletic options, but felt uninspired academically.
When college started, something shifted. He began to dig into school and studies with enthusiasm and joy.
After I began to see this shift, I asked him what changed. Theo didn’t even have to think about it. “I’m hungry to learn now.”
As teachers, we want all of our students to have that ‘hunger’ to learn. Those students make teaching feel effortless. Self-motivated students practice and learn whatever you throw their way.
But not all students get hungry to learn at the same time. Less than 25% of my students are hungry to learn at any given moment. But, when the conditions are good, all students get hungry eventually.
I have come to believe that my job is to keep a student playing music—at even a minimal level—until the hunger kicks in.
Teaching is an uncertain, creative job where every student requires a slightly different approach. One strategy that I embrace with all my students: Kids moving forward in their education, no matter how slowly, are better positioned to succeed when they get hungry than kids who quit.