A Counselor’s Perspective: How to Improve Student Motivation

Here we go again. The kids say they have given every ounce of effort they have to give to schoolwork, and they’re in dire need of a break. The thought of sitting through another lesson, remembering one more piece of information, and then another homework assignment is absolutely unbearable. So how can you help motivate your student to stay on track at school?

We wanted to shed some light on how to keep your children motivated and meet their goals throughout the school year, so we decided to ask an expert. I sat down with Renee Breur, school counselor at Pikes Peak Online High School, to get some advice.

Of course, every student is different, and they all have unique and individual motivational factors. From visual to auditory, there is a big difference in learning styles. However, a look at your involvement as a parent provides some good insight into what your student needs, and much of Breur’s advice is general enough to apply to most students and parents.

LL: How would you define motivation? 

RB: Motivation lies within you and what you are passionate about. It is important for students to explore what they like and what makes them happy, and for their parents to support them.

LL: How do you think parents should keep their students motivated throughout the school year?

RB: Parents have an important role in checking their students work and making sure they are staying on schedule during the day. If parents are involved every day and are making sure that their students are not falling behind, it is easy to keep up morale and motivation in the household. It is also important for parents to review goals with their students and remind them why they are working so hard.

Parents should be talking to their kids about what they are passionate about and help them explore more of their passion. Take them to colleges; help them make connections to explore their job options. Show them that you are there to support them.

LL: How do you think students (older grades in particular) should motivate themselves throughout the school year?

RB: I believe if students are organized, have a dedicated school space, create and keep a schedule, and develop short-term and long-term goals for the school year, they will see success. To start, students should remove all distraction from their work space area to keep their minds from wandering during the day. Students should also have a set time that they are doing school work without distractions from others in their household. If students stay on track with their school work, they will see success in their grades, which will encourage them to keep going. The key is a strong start so students do not fall behind.

Students should be researching different careers that feed their passions. They should be visiting those jobs they are interested in. Students can do a day shadow, or even an internship, to get the experience on what the job entitles. Getting a chance to see your passion in action can fuel the fire we all have within ourselves.

Students should be doing college visits if they are interested in attending a college. That is an exciting experience to be on a college campus learning about the opportunities that are available.

Students should be exploring what life would be like after high school. Getting a chance to see where your passion can take you will keep you motivated and moving forward.

LL: How do you think parents can help their student(s) set and stay on track with goals before and during the school year?

RB: It is important for students to create long- and short-term goals that will help them achieve their overarching long range goal. If parents are involved in that process with their students, then parents can help monitor how goals are going and revisit them throughout the year. Being involved in the goal setting process is important for parents and mentors to do. It builds collaboration within the home and holds both the parent and the student accountable for the goals they create.

LL: How can students (again, older grades in particular) set and stay on track with goals during the school year?

RB: Students should keep goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time oriented. Students should evaluate and re-adjust as needed. Students should set short-term goals to keep them on track with a long-term goal set into place that will keep them motivated and focused.

LL: Anything else?

RB: I am the first person in my family to graduate high school, so I understand how hard it is to keep going. Once you find your passion and what you want to do in life, it is easy to push through and achieve great things. It is important to not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something because we can all achieve great things. We might all have a different path that we take to get there, but everything is possible.

A big thank you to Renee Breur for taking the time to talk with me! Do you have more questions about motivating your student and keeping them on track with goals? Let us know in the comments below.

Everyone has those days where motivation is lacking, but consistent and perpetual lack of motivation in a student is definitely a concern that should be addressed. In some cases, parents may want to consider alternative school choices such as online school for their kids. As each child is unique, strategies to overcome a lack of motivation will vary, but maintaining a positive attitude yourself and applying the above methods are great starts.


*This article originally published in October 2015.

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