My name is Amayra. I am a freshman at a technical high school. At my school, we alternate between academic week and vocational week, which is when we have our shops, like nursing, carpentry, and culinary. We pick our final shops in January of freshman year, and I’m in the nursing shop. Today, I want to talk to you about the importance of student motivation. Instead of making kids learn, schools should make them want to learn. There are two key ways schools can motivate students: with fun and supportive teachers and active learning experiences.

First, fun and supportive teachers can motivate students. This has been a hard time for us. A lot of people lost friends during the pandemic. Some of us are frustrated because we have issues at home and need friends to help. We are just so used to not talking to anyone to the point that when we go to school, it’s very hard for us to socialize. Because of this, fun and supportive teachers really make a difference. My English teacher is a good example of this. She jokes around with us, but we still get all of our work done. We can do both: there’s a time for us to play and there’s a time for us to do work. Even if I’m having a bad day, I’m still going to talk in her class. Just being in her classroom makes me forget I’m in school because it is such a fun learning experience. One time, when we had finished all of our work, she played a video I had made in my video performing arts shop for the class. We were all laughing. I wouldn’t even think to ask to show the video in other classrooms, but I knew I could send it to her. I wish all teachers created this environment. Teachers should pay more attention to the way kids converse and what they like to converse about – this way teachers have more comfortable conversations with students. Students are more motivated to learn when they see that the teachers actually care. If a teacher is not motivational, the students will not be motivated.

Second, active learning motivates students. In my academic week classes alone, I’ve submitted over 200 assignments to Google Classroom since the beginning of the school year. It feels like some teachers only care about whether we submitted the assignment by 11:59 PM. When I’m in these classrooms, six hours a day, everyone’s quiet. All I can hear is the scribbles of the pencils or the tapping of the keyboards. And that’s it. It’s silent. There’s no music. There’s no laughter. It’s just so dead. And it’s like that for 180 days out of the year. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t know everyone’s names in the classroom. This environment reminds me of online school – just with different scenery. Schools should give students more active learning experiences and opportunities to work with other students. In the shops at my technical school, we get to explore our interests and pick a shop to focus on during our four years there. That’s what I like about my school, and I’m lucky to go here, but the classes during my academic week need to include more active learning, like our shops. I think the problem is that in high school, they expect you to have this maturity level where you don’t have to talk all the time, but this isn’t realistic or making kids want to learn. In some of my classes, we do activities like Quizlet Live, which is a learning game that groups students randomly. The groups compete to answer the questions first. Those activities make me feel connected with the students and makes me notice how much social interaction helps teenagers be themselves and feel young again. I like activities where the whole class is talking and conversing with each other, in a way where nobody feels left out.

Without motivation, there is no progress. Without progress, there is no learning. The purpose of school is to learn, so schools must learn to motivate their students. I hope you can take this message and continue to support Safe and Supportive Schools. Thank you for listening.

Amayra on the importance of student motivation

Amayra on what it has been like to come back to school during the pandemic

“Without motivation, there is no progress. Without progress, there is no learning. The purpose of school is to learn, so schools must learn to motivate their students.”

“Instead of making kids learn, schools should make them want to learn.”

Artwork by Amayra