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Intrinsic Motivation
Dr. Grauer's Weekly Assembly Address to The Grauer School Students

Dear Grauer School Students,

I want to talk about learning away from school. In the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, it seems like everything in education has changed overnight. Schools can’t use some of the old, classroom methods. Right now, it’s all about the parents and the students. At home.

We have suddenly returned to the way it was before this relatively new phenomenon, the mandatory school system. Before that, as far as we can tell, from the dawn of homo sapiens until about 150 years ago, education was optional, and it was mainly up to parents and the tribe. Through it, we thrived enough that we are still here. 

Today’s school systems might not be as mandatory as we thought. There is no need to follow all of the requirements of the school systems, even at The Grauer School. In life, you can use whatever you find helpful or engaging. Even your best teachers will admit they are not experts at knowing all you need to learn or even half. One seven-year-old child I know recently noted about her teachers, “Did you know, they have no idea what they are doing?”

Teachers can help a lot, but the only super important thing I want my students to know is this: you are a natural learner. Every one of you was born wanting to learn, to understand everything about the world around you. I know, you particularly want to know what the adults around you think is important—but they must never replace your deeply felt curiosity and desire to learn whatever it is you are drawn to learn. The best teachers know this. The smartest teachers would never think they know what you must learn—because the best teachers know it is your job to discover that! Learn by discovery.

Click to watch Dr. Grauer's address to his students about Intrinsic Motivation - May 12, 2020

Did anyone ever have to force you to learn about computers, or to walk and talk, for that matter? If you realize that reading and writing and algebra are important in the world or needed in your life, I’m sure nothing will stop you from learning them. That’s not up to your parents or teachers. 

And there are so many equally important things you can learn, such as responsibility, compassion, and solving real life problems—our school talks about them every week, and it is why we form Core Values Portfolio (CVP) advisories every week. (That’s why CVPs are becoming our most important classes, though they are hard to teach really well, in the Socratic way.)

So in general, the job of teachers and parents is just to try to keep up with you and your fellow students, and to help you along the way if you get stuck. Sure, we create curriculum. And almost every study shows that if this approach is taken, kids learn faster, sometimes much faster. And of course, it might help you get to college and do better there—but there are no rules. You are a born learner. People with no grades get into Harvard every single year.

It is extremely important to all of us at Grauer that you know, like in the days before the public school system, you can still pick and choose from things that you want to learn and that school offers; but you are in no way obliged to do anything a teacher tells you to do. When it comes down to it, you don’t “need” to do anything at all for school!  Your teachers can help, but if you are not intrinsically motivated and don’t know why you want to be in a class, we are pretty useless, maybe even harmful! Some classes in School do not have that much practical value and they don’t have to; they are ways of developing your mind and body in general—but that’s on you.

So, students, don’t worry about schooling at home during a pandemic or any other time! In all likelihood you will come out of this pandemic with a strikingly clearer sense of what learning is and what you can accomplish on your own. Once you have this sense, you’ll know better how useful your teachers can be.

* Letter inspired by Jerry Mintz, Alternative Education Resource Organization.

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Watch Dr. Grauer's address to his students about Intrinsic Motivation - May 12, 2020

Fearless Teaching® Book
by Dr. Stuart Grauer

Fearless Teaching® is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland.

There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you.

"Grauer’s writing reminds us that Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative

Click here to order Fearless Teaching® today

Dr. Grauer's Column: Archive of Past Columns

Dr. Grauer's Column - Investment Love

Does money talk? In this week's column, Dr. Grauer discusses the importance of making socially conscious investments that align investing strategies with the values of the school.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Sir Ken Robinson Has Died

Dr. Grauer pays tribute to one of his role models, Sir Ken Robinson. He was a great supporter of authentic education, and a teacher who was always equally concerned with the development of the mind, body, and spirit.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Outdoor Classrooms at The Grauer School

“Get Outdoors” is a well-known Grauer School mantra. The current pandemic crisis has highlighted the value of outside learning to achieve the benefits of space, fresh air, engaging learning opportunities, and the calming effect of connecting with nature.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Sacred Scenario Planning for Schools

In this contemplation dedicated to the new Senior class of 2021, Dr. Grauer illustrates how the human mind can create new meaning and educational vision in pandemic time when some of the old formulas and lifeways are not serving us as intended.