Sunday, 25 January 2009

Lighting the Fire of Motivation in Your Teen

By Lauren Tyson
"When Cody graduated last fall, we danced a little jig of joy. He had so much trouble with schoolwork that we were afraid he would give up on his dream of becoming a lawyer. We know he's a bright teenager, but at the time, our highest expectation for him was a C average. We didn't know if the problem originated with his classes or with him."

Those are the words of a desperate parent. No parent ever wants to think that their son or daughter is unable to excel in school. Though there can be a variety of factors, there is one crucial question that many parents overlook when contemplating their child's dissatisfaction with school: have they been taught how to learn? It seems like such a ridiculous query that most parents would answer immediately, "Yes! Of course my teen possesses adequate learning skills. They are in high school!" Those same parents would be surprised to find that many teenagers have never been formally taught how to study or prepare for an exam. Without those skills, they miss out on a wealth of potential and are so caught up with their immediate frustrations that they don't understand how easy learning can be with the right encouragement.

A lack of learning skills does not automatically equal a lack in academic ability. Trying to play a game without a set of rules is impossible, just as it is impossible for a teenage to tap their latent potential for studying and excelling in school without guidance. If a teenager is faced with repeated disappointment and failure, they may develop a self defeating attitude and convince themselves that school does not matter. This can be very dangerous for their academic and personal futures.

So, why do so many teenagers feel disconnected from their schoolwork? Motivation plays a large role. When a student is unable to relate to or see merit in the subject matter, the topic instantly becomes boring to them. Teenagers need to find ways to reconnect the content to their own lives. Once they can make the connection for themselves, comprehension will follow!

Though a teacher's goal is imparting information clearly, students are not always able to organize and rehash that information into something they can use to study, especially when they lack the learning skills to do it. Every student has a different way of absorbing information, and teachers are often unable to cater to their specific learning styles. Some students learn audibly, while others learn visually. Ultimately, a student must find the best way to decipher what they learn and make it comprehensible.

There is a mysterious phenomenon that occurs for many students in their teen years: the joy of learning is extinguished and replaced with frustration. School, and the learning associated with it, becomes something that they are eager to put behind them. What happened to the precocious child who was eager to read everything put in front of them? Where did that burgeoning artist, intent on creating a collection of crayon masterpieces to display on the refrigerator, go? Somewhere, deep inside the shell of indifference and hormones, that child still exists. They just need to rekindle the passion of learning and discovery.

One thing that will coax the creative spark from any teenager is changing their view of school. If it is viewed as a forced institution or mandatory responsibility, they will never understand what a place of learning can offer. Rather, school should be depicted as a gateway of opportunity. It is a place that will broaden their horizons and actualize their personal goals and dreams. Academic summer camps help exemplify this image by providing learning and teen life skills in a setting where teenagers feel comfortable. Here, they will gain important traits that will help them in their academic and personal lives, like confidence, self-esteem, and motivation.

Teenagers will learn a wide range of skills at academic summer camps like SuperCamp that will give them a head start on future success. Communication skills, leadership skills, building positive relationships, conflict resolution, creative thinking, setting goals, and problem solving are just some of the things they will develop and master. Conflicts in school and at home will be significantly eased as a result.

When a teenager can take ownership for their own learning, doors will burst open for them. Memorizing, studying, and testing all become a series of small victories that will boost their confidence in the long run. In that mindset, they can do anything they set their minds to.

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