It is an alarming statistic — seventy percent of teens responding to a PEW Research survey say they believe anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers. Of the 920 students interviewed for the February 2019 survey, more than half say they sometimes feel anxious or nervous. Thirteen percent feel tense or nervous every day.
Pressures to excel academically and fit in socially are magnified by the unrelenting demands of social media to “brand” yourself. In our hyperconnected environment, teens find themselves exploring their possible selves under the scrutiny of their peers on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Educators are tasked with reaching these students and at the same time, states across the country are increasing the rigor of their learning and assessment standards. Limited budgets make it nearly impossible for schools to provide a 21st Century college and career-ready education, along with mental health services to meet the needs of every student with emotional problems.
Budget issues are compounded by the increased national focus on school violence and targeted attacks, which has the public demanding that resources are diverted to hardening school buildings. School Board meetings are attended by parents that prioritize the hiring of SROs over school psychologists and social workers.
Anxiety, depression, and fear create a devitalizing and demoralizing school climate. Students are not motivated to learn when they must put their energies into merely surviving. Overwhelmed teachers can barely keep up with the demands of the classroom. The challenge for school administrators is to address all these issues and utilize the tools and techniques that work as school motivators to create an environment that supports learning and growth.
Types of Motivation
Reward and punishment are the motivators that most educators rely on to exact specific behaviors from their students. For primary grade students, the promise of a sticker on their paper may push them to complete their worksheet; older students may attend class to avoid time in detention hall. It’s unlikely faculty and staff will show up to work without the reward of a paycheck.
These extrinsic school motivators are necessary, but individuals need more to fully embrace goals and thrive. They need to be driven internally.
Intrinsic motivations are lasting. They stem from the best of human nature, urging individuals to strive to be their best. The desire to learn and grow comes from an individual’s need to self-actualize, to reach the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Unfulfilled Psychological Needs Undermine Intrinsic Motivations
If the need to learn and grow is innate, why do so many students exhibit counterproductive behaviors? Why do some staff members do the bare minimum required and many veteran teachers reuse old lesson plans year after year while counting the days to retirement?
Ryan and Deci’s Self Determination Theory holds that the human inclination to strive can be thwarted when any or all of these three basic psychological needs are unmet. To self-motivate, individuals need:
- A sense of competence—they must believe in their ability to achieve a goal.
- A sense of autonomy—they must believe they have control.
- A sense of relatedness—individuals need to see themselves as part of a greater whole.
Fear, frustration, and an authoritarian-like system that fails to seek input from the school community can stifle true motivation. While school administrators don’t want to hand over the keys to the building to every student and staff member, advances in education technology now allow everyone in the school to take a more active role in operations.
Updating and integrating SIS programs, administrative systems, behavior management tools and building security measures will increase operational efficiency and security while giving each individual a role that will satisfy the need for a sense of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
5 Systems to Enable School Motivators
The introduction of desktop computers into the classroom was quickly followed by software to record attendance. While this was a significant improvement over pen-and-paper logs, teachers still must start each class calling roll as students passively wait for the lesson to begin.
RFID technology makes it possible for students to check themselves in by swiping or tapping their ID card to a card reader. With this system, students take control of recording their attendance, increasing their responsibility and autonomy.
Teachers may focus on the lesson at the start of class, and they are assured absent and tardy data is accurate and current. Administrators may access the data to get precise information for state reports and identify problems, such as chronic absenteeism.
Handwritten notes tucked into a file folder, carbon-copied office referrals, and anecdotal information shared at a meeting with counselors and CSE personnel provide an inconsistent and incomplete record of student behavior.
Schools make rules and set expectations, but tracking behavior overtime varies by teacher and time of day, as a behavior that was not worth reporting in the morning may be intolerable at the end of the day when everyone is tired.
A comprehensive behavior management system simplifies the reporting of both positive and negative behaviors. Referrals and interventions are automated for consistency, placing accountability in the hands of students. Students may no longer shift blame for their actions by claiming teachers don’t like them.
Interactive learning modules directly teach students social skills and help them understand appropriate behavior. With behavior management systems, school personnel may monitor and assess students’ understanding of expectations and identify patterns of problematic behavior.
As students learn to take control of their behavior, their level of self-efficacy and their sense of autonomy increases.
Security cameras, building access controls, and SROs have become a part of school life across the country. School security is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet targeted attacks on schools continue to regularly make headlines.
While these overt security measures may appear to make schools safer, a summary of research completed by NASP found that surveillance cameras and armed guards reinforce a street culture that emphasizes self-preservation over community, making schools less safe.
Most schools have systems in place to prevent those who pose a security threat from entering the building. These often require a dedicated staff member to screen visitors and issue name badges. The weaknesses are obvious. A better way is to install a visitor management system capable of scanning drivers’ licenses and printing ID badges.
These systems may be integrated with SIS programs and state records so that individuals involved in custody disputes, are subjects of orders of protection or are on a sex offender registry will be flagged. The knowledge that “bad actors” will be stopped at the door will provide a level of comfort among students and staff, allowing them to fully engage with their primary tasks of teaching and learning.
The most prevalent threats students face in school are bullying and fighting. Students who are afraid to walk the halls are too concerned with their safety to apply themselves to schoolwork. Teachers and staff must act as security guards at the expense of their teaching duties.
Most incidents take place in isolated areas of the school away from adult supervision. A secure door access system allows restricted areas of the building to be locked and only accessed by designated individuals via an ID card.
From a single dashboard, administrators can control locks throughout the building and personnel can locate missing students. Students will feel safer and staff can focus on learning rather than having to monitor hallways.
Good internal and external communication systems keep everyone involved and informed. They are essential to creating a connected community. An automated data center facilitates communications by automating functions such as emailing a parent when their child has arrived at school and sending out emergency notifications to various devices.
Behavior issues are recorded and available in real-time and computerized referrals prevent the frustration of lost records. From the Administration Portal, school leaders can keep a finger on the pulse of the school throughout the day and address problems as they arise.
Technology upgrades can help motivate your students, teachers, and staff with tools that increase efficiency while securing buildings. Contact a ScholarChip representative to learn more about new technology that can reduce fear and frustration to improve school climate and inspire students and staff to reach their full potential.
ScholarChip offers a solution called Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE). This innovative program enables counselors to identify, monitor, and improve student behavior throughout a student’s career while giving administrators and teachers powerful data-driven reports that quickly flag at-risk students, help monitor and chronicle progress, and support decision-making tasks.
The ScholarChip system incorporates the complete spectrum of behavior and integrates student rewards, interventions, and tracking with PowerSchool®, Infinite Campus, and other popular SIS platforms.
To learn how ScholarChip can help keep your schools safer and more secure, more about the many solutions ScholarChip provides, or to get free recommendations, feel free to schedule a call today with one of our specialists!