Carol Strip Whitney and Gretchen Hirsch have done an exceptional job at outlining major and minor impediments to motivation in their book, A Love For Learning Motivation and the Gifted Child. A key line in the preface is, “Gifted children can and do learn everywhere; the trick is to maintain their motivation to learn in school.” Gifted underacheivement is a widespread problem. Too few gifted children are adequately challenged and taught how to strive and work toward appropriate goals. This is a guidebook that all teachers and parents should read. There are many reasons that children may lose their desire to succeed. This book makes sense of motivational roadblocks and includes techniques for stimulating gifted minds. Any school should be able to put a few of these ideas into place with a modest amount of effort.
A Love for Learning is not light reading. While it is written in language any lay person can understand, topics are explored in depth. A total of 15 chapters focus on themes such as physical reasons for loss of motivation (vision or hearing problems, learning disabilities, etc.), emotional reasons for loss of motivation, creating challenge, and the classroom that works. Each chapter ends in a brief summary.
According to the authors, there are approximately three million gifted children in the United States. Sadly, we have very few educators trained to work with this population. The advent of No Child Left Behind legislation has pushed the interests of gifted children to the back burner. Teachers and administrators are required to do all that they can to ensure that the students at the lower end of the spectrum achieve a minimum level of competency. Federal funding is tied to raised test scores. Students who are already at or above the minimum standards are often forced to sit through repetitive drills and test preparation. Obviously, this is not the best educational situation for a child who is academically gifted. Such a poor fit with classroom activities is one reason that a child may lose motivation. I encourage you to read A Love for Learning to discover other root causes and find practical methods to reestablish a commitment to learning.