Dan Pink has been working on a new book “Drive” about what motivates us. As an educator and system leader, What motivates me and many of my colleagues is a desire to give young people the best opportunity in life by giving them the gift of education.
Good teachers would work for pittance and often do when they are working with a team of committed professionals who are passionate, committed and aspire to reach the same goals. This is what Pink refers to as intrinsic motivation – doing something greater than ourselves.
According to Pink, 20th century businesses and organisations work on extrinsic motivators – pay for performance, carrrot and sticks approach for 20th century tasks. It is also how governments and policy makers believe we can improve schooling….reward teachers for preparing students well for high-stakes tests.
Pink claims that scientific evidence shows that those extrinsic motivators like financial rewards narrow our focus to left-brain, mechanical tasks. When we remove extrinsic motivators from the table, we give people autonomy to move in every direction and therefore find creative solutions.
Good teachers deserve an adequate and fair pay but this cannot be the carrot for motivating or punishing them. All this does is detract from the real work by making teachers compliant and schooling rigid. What’s more, it kills creativity and forces good teachers to leave the profession feeling defeated and exhausted.
If the general population were to hear less from unions and politicians linking schooling to extrinsic motivators and more from teachers about what really motivates them, then we would see the real value in education. This requires what I call a “new honesty” from the profession itself since everything has to be open to change. The past defines the present and shouldn’t be allowed to restrict the future.
It may even give us the energy to move beyond jack-in-the-box schooling (no surprises there) to something never seen before.