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Some children of high ability, said teachers in several schools, seem to lack the drive or motivation to achieve in any direction or under any circumstances. Interested in finding ways to motivate these children, teachers look for the causes of low aspiration, but the causes are not always easy to detect or to remove. Low energy, poor health, discouragement, uninspiring or troublesome home conditions, early habit development, preoccupation with other affairs-these often are the causes which teachers find difficult to counteract. As a result, the potentially able children often sit idly by, doing what they are required to do, willing to be surpassed by children of lesser ability and higher drive.
It is these underachievers or children with motivational problems, whose gifts and talents may be lost to themselves and to society. The real challange is not merely to identify these children, but to devise a program which will inspire them and help them realize their talents. In discussing this problem, Havighurst states:
A child of high aptitude but low achievement is one of the most challenging candidates and should be identified. He should not be bypassed because of his low achievement. Lack of interest or motivation may mean that a different type of program, such as psychotherapy rather than an academically enriched program, should be set up for the child.'
1 See NSSE Yearbook, p. 171, No. 52 in bibliography.
Some Common Elements Pervading
N ALMOST every school and classroom visited, the observer noted a dynamic quality of excitement. Children, principals, and teachers were busy about things they believed to be important. Contrary to a commonly held impression of school life, the children were not merely sitting, reading, and reciting; they were actually researching to the best of their ability: finding out, singly or in groups, all they could about some interest or topic, often a selfassigned one; preparing reports and reporting to others in challenging, interest-commanding ways what they had found out; deciding with the teacher what were the next steps to be taken "today or tomorrow." They were pursuing individual improvement in the use of fundamental academic skills and abilities: learning to read better, to improve their powers of communication, and to improve their use of mathematics. They were writing and producing plays; preparing demonstrations, exhibits, and displays; and carrying out experiments.
Looking in one classroom after another for the cause of this intellectual excitement, the visitor realized that in spite of differences in organization, there were certain common elements in the environment, the administration, the teaching, the instructional resources, the classroom arrangement, and the children's educational activities. An interrelationship seemed always to be there, indicating that eagerness or activity in any one area apparently set off a chain reaction, which resulted in steadily increasing interest and activity.
The present report in no way attempts to analyze all the work done by the principals behind the scenes, but only that part of it which showed up during the observer's visits. It was evident that,
whether men or women, they were not merely "front men." Each was a person and educator in his own right, capable of managing an energetic and going institution with an eye for every element, human or material, that was a part of it, but with major focus upon the education of children.
Each principal served as a key professional person in the school. Although his interest in children extended to their total development, his focus remained upon their education. He saw to it that all services available to the school-psychological, health, academic— were administered to the children's advantage.
The principal encouraged the teachers to provide for the growth of individual children. "Functional grouping," "the primary unit," "continuous progress," and other technical references to grouping and progress, were familiar terms in his vocabulary, and he was able to discuss the advantages and problems in these various forms of organization. Whenever he was in a classroom, he entered into the spirit of whatever was going on, and asked the teachers now and then whether they needed help. That self-status was not his goal was shown in the pride with which he exhibited the accomplishments of both children and teachers. He invited close staff cooperation, and in staff meetings, he helped the staff clarify the values supported by the school. In interviews and meetings, he made parents welcome and exchanged ideas and information with them, with the result that each gained a better understanding of the other's role in the lives of the children.
Each principal served also as a warm, friendly host in the school. Not only did the visitor feel this, but the children did, too. Some of them went out of their way to greet the principal and to receive his attention. For instance, in one school a disheveled redhead of about 8 years dropped in the principal's office just to say, "Mornin', Mr. M ." "He comes in every morning," said Mr. M- - "I guess he needs a man's attention. He doesn't have a father." To feel Mr. M- 's pat on his rugged little back seemed to start the day right for Joey.
Accompanying the visitor through the buildings, each principal showed a personal interest in the children, greeted many by their first names, posing questions here and there about parents, the baby, a pet, a trip, or schoolwork. His questions to the teachers revealed familiarity with the children's school progress and conditions affecting their progress.
The visitor was impressed by the fact that the principals had professional stature, and were capable of helping a school set its goals, maintain direction, evaluate its accomplishments and shortcomings, and plan for steady improvement.
The teachers in the classrooms visited showed great differences in personality, and appearance, but certain similar characteristics in the ways they worked with the children became apparent.
The teachers' friendly, cooperative, understanding approach to the children seemed to put them at ease and to invite an active, thoughtful attitude toward the work to be accomplished. Usually the teacher said encouraging things, but occasionally when a child showed signs of getting out of hand, he quietly called attention directly to the work to be done.
Creativeness and spontaneity marked the teaching. Blueprints were not in evidence. New problems were sought for children to explore; new ways of expression were welcomed. The teachers characteristically did not take over and do the creative thinking themselves, nor did they hurry the teaching so fast that the children could not take time to think and to express; instead, they changed pace to let the children move ahead. "Let's do it together," was the invitation for the children to offer ideas, sometimes in their own work groups, sometimes with the teacher.
The teachers took the children seriously, courteously, and with integrity. The children's ideas, invited and freely expressed, were welcomed without the customary accepted or rejected signals-the nod, the smile, the frown, the terse statement. There were no "wrong" answers. All ideas were weighed reflectively by the children and by the teacher for their worth in advancing the thinking or the doing. There was always something to think about.
Most of the teachers liked and respected both children and subjectmatter and wanted to bring the two together. They appeared to be well informed, at times even masters of certain subject-matter areas. Whether in literature, composition, social studies, science, mathematics, art, music, health, or physical education, they were sufficiently at home to encourage the children to learn. But they were not infallible. When they did not know, they said so. Not knowing seemed to be no disgrace. Instead, if the interest or need was high enough to warrant a search for information, teacher and children together took steps to find out what they needed to know.
The teachers seemed to understand the unity or relatedness of knowledge, and were not disturbed by transgressing subject-matter boundaries. In fact, they seemed to welcome the flow of one subject into another, as so often happened during the school day.
The teachers showed full respect for the traditionally recognized academic fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and in
sight into how children acquire these fundamentals. The children met situations which called for the use of these skills. Time was available for them to work in small groups, large groups, or individually to further their own skilled development. Interest in skill development varied among the children, but it was aided by records of improvement and attractive materials to invite experimentation.
The teachers accepted the challenges brought by the children. They never seemed thrown off balance by any suggestion. Rather, challenges or questions became exciting points of takeoff for study. No straitjackets appeared to limit subject-matter or experience. Explorations never seemed to reach a dead end. Each thing led on in an open-ended, venturesome sort of way, opening up more and more avenues of interest. In complex undertakings, the children helped each other, the teacher sometimes contributing to the project by bridging a hard spot. Projects were never really completed-merely interrupted because time had run out, or because attention had to be given to something else. There would always be more to find out— more to do.
The teachers showed concern, too, for the social fundamentals. They directed many activities at developing those attitudes, feelings, understandings, and social skills which enable children to participate effectively and happily in the life around them. The teachers helped the children clarify thought and action patterns which are controlled by deep-lying, seldom-challenged attitudes. Many acts of the teachers seemed to be aimed at helping the children develop positive perceptions of themselves, and of how they, as individuals and as groups, influence their own lives and the world around them.
The teachers seemed to understand how to help individual children cope with personal problems which were preventing their progress. In several cases, the teachers revealed to the observer their concern about certain children, and related how they were working with the principal, the psychologist, and others in order to help a child deal with his problem. In one case, an able child who had not been interested in learning to read well was helped to the place where now, in the fifth grade, his appetite for reading could not be satisfied. Another child, blocked by her general dislike of adults (which found expression in rejection of teachers) was finding needed therapy in the patient understanding of her teacher and school.
The teacher seemed to know also how to guide each child to his fullest performance in schoolwork, and to explore his interests beyond the classroom and school walls. In every class, even in the more homogeneous, and in almost every subject, the teachers adapted tasks to varying levels of intelligence and achievement. For ex