Student Motivational Techniques to Reverse the Soaring Dropout Rate


motivational techniques for unmotivated k12 students


Student Motivational Techniques to Reverse the Soaring Dropout Rate



Techniques to motivate studentsWe know that schools have had a rough year when all of our August on-site school inservice dates are booked by April. We ran out of summer inservice dates this year earlier than ever before. Recent research released in the past few weeks confirms that this was a rough school year. Specifically, the national dropout rate is becoming so egregious that it has become an epidemic, many of the researchers suggest.

The content of this article is taken from my teacher training workshops. I'm Youth Change Professional Development Director, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. and I've worked for decades to find and create awesome student motivational techniques that work so much better than conventional strategies.

For years, in our teacher workshops, I have talked about the national dropout rate running at about 25% on average. New K12 educational articles are pegging that rate now at a depressing 30%. An article reprinted by the Public Education Network, observed that we would never tolerate a system where 30% of iPods malfunctioned or 30% of FedEx packages never arrive, but that is essentially what has happened with K-12 education. 30% of high schoolers are not graduating.

Years ago, moms and dads reliably conveyed to their offspring the importance of school, and provided assistance with homework, attendance and school performance. That sentence does not fit our contemporary times very well.

If significant numbers of families are not gearing their sons and daughters to be motivated, prepared, skilled students, then someone has to take on that task, or many students will continue to flounder, and a whopping one-third will ultimately drop out. If schools would dedicate themselves to providing School Skills Training, they could stop working with untrained, unmotivated kids, and start working with trained, motivated students instead. We are not talking about re-stating expectations and rules. We are talking about literally training kids to be students, just like you train them to learn long division or conjugate a verb.

If schools took 10% of the time and energy that they are compelled to dedicate to high stakes testing and shifted their efforts to School Skills Training, the worsening dropout rate might be reversed. What should School Skills Training include? Any skill, attitude or motivation that students need to succeed.

For students at risk of dropping out, motivation might head the list, followed by attendance and punctuality. All students need specific skill training in areas like teacher interaction skills, homework management skills, class discussion skills, hallway behavior, peer interaction skills, requesting help, and so on. If your school expects these skills from students, but does not teach them, that is unfair. It is not fair to expect skills you have not taught.

Here is a sampling of our thousands of techniques for motivating K12 students, but to impact your potential 30% dropouts, don't forget to also cover attendance, punctuality and the other School Skills Training areas listed above. If you need more methods than the small sampling of motivation- makers provided here, check out our array of powerhouse motivational resources, or read more of our Behavior and Classroom Management Problem-Solver Blog educational articles on motivation shown in the right column of this page.

School Skills Training Techniques
for Motivation
That Boost Student Retention:

Teachers Are Lousy Mind Readers
The newly released studies of dropouts emphasize that there are many reasons that students quit school. The studies also note that if students receive help with their concerns, dropping out may become less necessary. For example, a student may feel the need to stay home to watch younger sibs. If that concern is communicated to a teacher, then the teacher or school may be able to assist. For example, the teacher might locate a social service or church group to help with baby sitting. Since students often do not vocalize the concerns they face that interfere with school, teach students that teachers are lousy mind readers, that they will have to tell the teacher exactly what the problem is so that the teacher can help.

Find Out Now What You'll Know Later
The new studies discuss that some students drop out to earn what seems like a lot of money. Help students understand that what looks like a lot of money now will look like "not enough money" later. There is a long and sad litany of the misery dropouts face. All students should learn about this reality as soon as possible. Here are just a few of the depressing realities of being a dropout in the new millennium; make sure your students know these facts so they don't have to live with them forever:

> Dropouts earn less than everybody else
> Most jobs require a diploma
> The jobs open to dropouts are becoming fewer and there may come a time, when there are   almost no jobs that will allow dropouts to apply
Dropouts often have to accept jobs that most people consider unpleasant, demeaning and   undesirable
> Dropouts usually do not earn enough money to pay their housing, food, utility and transportation bills
> Dropouts often have to work two jobs just to survive
> Dropouts can afford about 2/3 of a house or apartment if they work one job
> Dropouts may be only able to afford public transportation or drive cars that are considered old and not very desirable
> Dropouts are often stuck with the jobs no one else wants
> Dropouts are the first fired and last hired
> Dropouts can't afford health care and may have to endure physical discomfort, or even suffering


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Diplomas Rule
From early on, students need to understand the worth of that magic piece of paper. The California School Board Association web site quotes a dropout named Cheryl, who noted that she didn't think a diploma would matter because she "didn't feel that you had to have a high school diploma to get a job. But now you do. There's been jobs I wanted but they'd say 'high school diploma,' 'high school diploma.'" Teach your students about Cheryl, or ask dropouts in your area to come in and convey their regret to your group. Teach your students that no diploma in the 2000s is like no coat in Minnesota in winter.

Drop Out, Lose Out
Motivational techniques for k12Convince students that dropping out is foolish. Stop referring to yourself as a teacher, and switch to banker– because each high school graduate earns $329,000 more than a dropout. A catch phrase to use: "Your diploma: So valuable, it belongs in your wallet." Another: "You've got a life. A diploma lets you live it."

Our popular Poster #21 shown at right provides illustration of how motivational techniques can pack a significant punch and get the job done.

Speak the Language on High-Tech Planet
The U.S. is becoming a high-tech place. Without education, you can't even keep up with the conversation. Demonstrate that to students by locating job applications posted on the internet, then ask students to complete the applications. Students will have to know terms like "PDF," "Adobe," "Function Key," "Word Doc," "Spam Filters," "URLs" and others. You don't learn these terms by missing school, yet some day most job applications may be online, and include high-tech terms like these. Ask your students if they'll be ready.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.