Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
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My 5th grader came home excited from school - they were going to have a pizza party at school. "What for?" I asked, since there wasn't an upcoming holiday or special school event. Because they completed a multiplication task in less than 5 minutes. I didn't think that warranted a pizza party. "But," my daughter said, "the first time we did it, it took us, like, 8 minutes, but then when Mrs. C. offered us pizza, we did it almost half the time. Isn't that good?" Uhh, no. To me, that sounded like the class was being lazy before and only with this "carrot" of a pizza party did they do better. Note, no additional teaching or learning took place, no further preparation, the teacher only offered them food. I told my daughter that I didn't think they deserved a pizza party for doing the work they were supposed to be doing anyway. "Didn't you get pizza parties in school?" She challenged. "No, we just did our work, or got a bad grade," I explained. She looked confused at this idea of just doing our school work without receiving a tangible reward. And this concerned me.
This isn't the first time one of my children has come home having been awarded a pizza party or ice cream cones for having done their work. Not even an extraordinary job on a special project. Just doing what's expected on a regular assignment. Aside from the rewarding children with food aspect (that's a whole 'nother discussion) my main concern is how does this help our children develop their own sense of motivation and accomplishment? What happens when there isn't a pizza party in the horizon? Are our children learning to do better for the sake of their own internal satisfaction? And if not, what detriment is that to their exploration of ideas and accomplishment of new tasks, just for the sake of trying?
That leads me to this book. We have a new School Superintendent and he has a book club, this is the pick for this month. Daniel Pink challenges the notions that people are motivated primarily and only for reasons of basic survival (why we eat) and extrinsic reward (we work hard to get a bonus at work) and explores internal motivation (why Wikipedia overtook Encarta, and why I have this blog although no-one pays me a cent to write it). I hadn't really planned to go because of course there's other places we have to go and things to do on the same day, but when I started reading the book it struck me - "this might be the end of food for doing your work", so I cleared my calendar and signed up to go.
What's my motivation? Figuring out how to motivate my children.