Motivation: Inside-Out or Outside-In?

Motivation is being moved to do something.  McGrew (2007) has defined academic motivation as “a student’s desire (as reflected in approach, persistence, and level of interest) regarding academic subjects when the student’s competence is judged against a standard of performance or excellence.”  Many motivational theories have been developed in order to provide a language, conceptual representation, or explanatory system that offers a framework for understanding a complex process which involves emotions, perceptions, and intellect.  The most basic distinction between the theories are intrinsic motivation, doing something because it is enjoyable or inherently interesting, and extrinsic motivation, doing something because it leads to a separable outcome.

Our published philosophy of learning contains the following statement, “By presenting academics in an age-appropriate time frame and involving the learner in the learning process, young people will develop into eager lifetime learners.”  What this is communicating is that we are committed to teaching children in way that is active and highly engaging, that we will introduce knowledge and skills in a way that takes advantage of our students’ natural development, and that our students will develop an intrinsic motivation to learn that persists throughout their lives.  I am in the midst of a three journey to research and understand the concept of academic motivation and what adults can do to foster motivation in students.  I can share one aspect of this research with you in one sentence.  Students will develop intrinsic motivation for learning when they see it modeled by an adult they admire and respect.  I want to encourage everyone on our staff to be a lifetime learner.  That could involve taking a class or getting a degree.  Studying the Bible can be a powerful source of lifetime learning.  For many people it involves reading a few books every year, listening to audiobooks, watching documentaries or learning a skill or hobby.  Lifetime learning should be fun and add meaning and purpose to your days.  It also encourages those around you, including our students, to see the value of learning and provides an example for them to follow.

Spelltacular Event!

Poems have been written about it. Songs have been sung to describe it.  Plays have been performed to relive it.  Tomorrow, we will host it!  What is it?  It’s the Spelling Bee.

The local spelling bee at DCS will involve students from nine different ACSI member schools.  Five of the schools are in the Antelope Valley and the other schools are located in Lomita, Hesperia, and Banning.

The winners from our local spelling bee and eleven other local spelling bees that take place throughout southern California will compete at the ACSI Regional Spelling Bee at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena on February 18. The winners from the regional bee advance to the ACSI National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. on May 12.

I am impressed by each student selected to represent their schools at this event, especially the Knights!  Many of the participants engage in a significant amount of study to prepare for this competition.  The Spell-Off that takes place after the grade-level contests is very exciting and a joy to attend.  You’ll be enthralled if you watch the students apply what they’ve learned to spell many difficult words.  You might become spellbound by it!  See what I did there?  That’s a pun. P…U…N.  It is a noun.  It means “the humorous use of a word or phrase so as to emphasize or suggest its different meanings or applications, or the use of words that are alike or nearly alike in sound but different in meaning; a play on words.”  Thankfully, the students representing Desert Christian Elementary and Middle Schools will not limit themselves to 3 letter words.  It’s very likely someone will be asked to spell a word like hippopotamus which, if this had happened to me in second grade, would have caused me to faint.  It’s not a fear of spelling words that would have caused me to black-out, it would have been the crowd of people all intently staring me right in the eyes while I tried my best to spell very long words.  By the way teachers, please do not ever ask me to spell a difficult word, like cymotrichous, which was an actual word at the Scripps National Spelling Bee last year, in front of your students.  If you do, I might faint.  If you cause me to faint, I will bring a hippopotamus, with a big red bow around its’ neck, to your home and tell your children, or grandchildren, that it’s their new pet and to take care of it in YOUR backyard until it is fully grown in 10 years.

Now, back to happier, hippopotamus-free thoughts!  We are able to host this event every year because our staff members, parent volunteers, and volunteers from other schools make it possible.  The entire team is led by Julie Shirar, Spelling Bee Chair and Vice Principal of DCES.  Thank you, Julie, and our fantastic hardworking volunteers for making this a special day for our students and guests.  Please note that the participants may not invent words as I did in the headline for the article.

New Research regarding ACSI Accredited Schools

The following summary is taken from The Seal, a newsletter published by ACSI, Volume 7, Number 3.
“The release of the Cardus Education Survey has provided Christian schools with some data that warrants reflection, discussion, and dialog (Pasadena, CA: Cardus, 2011). Ray Pennings, senior fellow and director of research at Cardus, will be a presenter at Leadership Academy 2012. ACSI, in collaboration with Cardus, asked for additional data that compared ACSI accredited schools with nonaccredited, other conservative Protestant schools and Catholic schools. The 390 pages of data from that study provide some interesting perspectives and make a strong case for schools to become ACSI accredited. The following are a few of the notable areas where ACSI accredited schools were highest in the category:
• Highest standardized test scores (2) – Catholic schools were second.
• Involvement in evangelism (7) – Other ACSI schools were a close second
• Historical and literary knowledge (40) – All schools were a fairly close second
• Second language learning (42) – ACSI accredited schools were significantly higher than others
• Appreciation for a liberal arts education (49)
• Love of learning (60) – Other ACSI schools were second.
• A close personal relationship with God (65) – ACSI accredited schools were much higher than others
• Common spiritual values uniting students (108) – All schools had close scores in this area
• Missions and social service outside the United States and Canada (129)
• Course requirements in all core subjects including Bible (152-161)
• Percentage of students in college preparatory (194) – Catholic schools were second
• Regular worship attendance of teachers (265) – Other ACSI schools were a close second
• Superintendents influencing policies and decisions (291)
• College recruiters visiting campus (327) – Catholic schools were second
• Adherence to a dress code (351)
• Students participating in athletics (354)
• Students required to take college entrance exams (357)”
There is more information being published in the next edition of The Seal. Meanwhile, take a look at that list again. ACSI accredited schools, like DCS, were highest in these categories! That’s an impressive list of documented strengths among institutions similar to Desert Christian Schools. Now you know!

Solar Energy Project Continues at DCS

The last solar panel on the main campus was installed during Christmas vacation and the system is now being tested for certification by Southern California Edison. We expect the system will be operational, supplying electricity, and reducing energy costs by the end of January. We appreciate the patience, cooperation, and support we have experienced. Our staff and families are fantastic! The construction supervisors have shared their appreciation and the “difference” between their experience at DCS and other solar installation sites. Thank you for letting “your light shine before men…” (Matthew 5:16).

Solar Arrays on the Main Campus will be Operational Later this Month

Now our attention turns to the high school campus. We will start “pre-construction” on Monday, January 16, when the underground construction crew will take advantage of the holiday to begin trenching work. This trenching work will continue for the week of January 16-20. This work will impact a few parking spaces (approximately 12-15) and the parking lot will function normally.
The real project (meaning very inconvenient!) will begin on Monday, January 30, and continue for approximately 8 weeks. The first two weeks of this will be very disruptive and will shut-down nearly the entire high school parking lot. We have spoken with staff and students to explain the plans and are offering some incentives to encourage people to walk, bike, or carpool to work. We will be providing a shuttle service between the high school campus and main campus before and after school. The schedule and details of this shuttle will be published later this month. We will receive a letter from the City of Lancaster authorizing parking on the Avenue J-8 frontage roads during the construction project in order to avoid parking tickets normally issued on street sweeping days. After the first two weeks, the construction crews will only block a portion of the parking lot daily, similar to their process on the main campus. This will still be very disruptive to our routines but will be less burdensome than the first two weeks. Incentives discussed with our high school staff and students will be offered during the entire construction project and we appreciate everyone’s patience, cooperation, and support. There is short-term pain in this process but the long-term gain is more than worth it.

Ugly Sweater Contest

The last school day before Thanksgiving is always marked by extra energy and a festive spirit. Our students are looking forward to Thanksgiving vacation while our staff enjoys the change of pace, professional development, and Thanksgiving break at the end of the week.

This year we want to add some extra fun that day, Friday, November 18, by encouraging everyone on the staff to break out an exceptionally ugly sweater that you would, under normal circumstances, keep hidden in your closet. They don’t have to be Christmas or Thanksgiving sweaters, but hopefully they are really ugly!

Once you arrive on campus we hope you’ll engage in a little fun electioneering by showing off your sweater to everyone on your staff team and encouraging them to vote for your unattractive knit wear. We have emailed a flier describing the contest and a ballot appears at the bottom of the flier. Please vote for your favorite ugly sweater; one vote per person and only within your staff group. By the end of the school day, we will announce the winners and present each of them with$50 in AV Mall gift cards. The competition is within the following staff groupings:
Learning Tree Eastside, Learning Tree Main Campus, Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Main Campus Office, Support, & Facilities, Gymnastics Center & Peach Factory

We are looking forward to an ugly day!

Desert Christian Middle School Staff Leads the Way

Dr. Bill Walner, Associate Director of the ACSI Southern California Regional Office, has shared with me the blessings that our middle school staff and students are to the rest of the ACSI schools in southern California.  When he speaks about the ACSI Middle School Leadership Conference, he has said “Your staff makes the whole thing possible; we couldn’t do it without them.”  When he says “your staff” he is specifically referring to Mrs. Cheryl Shiplett and Mrs. Lisa Costello.

Mrs. Shiplett and Mrs. Costello are members of the conference Leadership Team and have, by all accounts, worked effectively over many years to make sure the conference is an excellent leadership training and fun experience for the student leaders and adults who attend.

They are also the leaders of the middle school Diakonia leadership organization which has trained hundreds of our middle school students over the years.    Mr. Brian Roseborough, Principal of Desert Christian Middle School, explains, “When parents at our school sign their middle school student into our Diakonia program, few realize that under the leadership of Mrs. Shiplett and Mrs. Costello this program has become one of the premier middle school leadership programs in our region. Not only do other program directors see it as an exemplary program but Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Shiplett play a lead role in the direction of the regional ACSI middle school leadership conference. Teaming with students, those teachers, reach not only into the lives of Diakonia members, but infuse the whole campus with a positive, servant-style leadership, and additionally impact the lives of the high school students that are part of our team.”

When I spoke to Mrs. Shiplett, she was very quick to acknowledge the contribution of others.  “Devin Thomas (DCHS Principal) is very supportive to the Leadership Conference every year.  Karen Long and the high school worship team have led, and will be leading again, the worship during our general sessions.  Also, Karmae Shiplett, as the ASB teacher, and the ASB cabinet (a group of 6 HS students) and Diakonia HS advisors (a group of 6 additional HS students) come and serve as host leaders in many different ways.  They have led games, conference sessions, and helped with set-up and take down as well as help “direct traffic” when needed.  They will be doing this again this year.  Without Mr. Thomas’s support and HS students and staff support we would be missing an important part of what makes the conference run so well.  We greatly appreciate him, his staff, and students.”