Friday, March 16, 2007

Pushup: The Great Motivator

Try as I might, I just couldn’t seem to get through to the boys in my 6th grade class. Motivational talks, individual attention, assistance in finding the text book in their bag, making sure the homework assignment was copied down—I’ve tried it all and I just couldn’t seem to get them to do their homework. That is until I turned to pushups.

As a kid, I had sadists for football coaches. Some of them had military experience and the army taught them some valuable motivational techniques. Bear crawls, pushups, leg lifts, burpees, running laps—they had a variety of ways to ensure we ran the correct routes, remembered the snap count and blocked the right person. I used to fear those men, and fear is a great motivator.

So the first day a student forgets his homework—“Teacher... duh... uhh... homework? Uhh, ha ha ha, it’s at my house”—I tell them the next time that happens they will do ten pushups in front of the class.

The desired reaction isn’t instantaneous. They giggle and squeal at my threat, then return to hitting each other in the heads with pens and throwing their hats around the room. Soon they’ve forgotten. However, at the next lesson when they come unprepared I line them up in front of the class and make them do pushups. I make them count out loud. It helps them learn numbers.

Ten isn’t so much, but when I assign homework that day I tell them it will be 20 pushups next time. Some don’t believe me and when the lesson arrives they find themselves face down on the floor, arms shoulder width apart, feet together, back straight—and one, two, three, four...

Since the girls all wear skirts at my school I threaten them with wall-sits or make them write sentences on the board. They like to write sentences.

I recommend this technique highly. My counterparts thought I was crazy at first, but they came around. And more importantly you see a marked improvement in your male students. It won’t be long until they are dutifully copying their homework from the smart girls in class. At the next lesson they will have carefully copied sentences such as: “In winter I wear skirt, tights, blouse, and scarf.”

The ones that don’t learn keep doing pushups and someday when they are digging ditches because they never studied they will think of me fondly because their arms will be big and strong and they will dig with ease.


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