Education Posts

How Do We Motivate Kids These Days?

How Do We Motivate Kids These Days?

By Dr. Mike Holt, PHD

10 years ago


classroom, culture, educators, motivation, teaching, relationships,



We are  asked by teachers and administrators, “How do we motivate kids these days?” The answer is RELATIONSHIPS! This is a simple answer, however, not easy to carry out unless you have a set of tools that work for you. Why do relationships increase motivation? When students feel connected to an appropriate adult at home or at school, they will do most anything to keep from disappointing them. In fact, perceived home or school connectedness is protective against virtually every adolescent risk factor including skipping school or dropping out (JAMA, 1997; CDC, 2009).

We’re seeing lots of information in school literature about how social emotional learning is connected to student performance, but exactly how do we increase the dynamics of social emotional learning? We posit it is by intentionally:

  • Creating a high performing culture.
  • Aligning individuals’ behaviors to outcomes.
  • Creating connectedness between teachers and students and between individuals and groups of students.

The Flippen Group provides a model process that does these things. When implemented with fidelity, the outcomes have no limits in terms of creating relational capacity and improving the key performance indicators of a school or district. In fact, we conducted a randomized control study that demonstrated the impact of our process on high school campuses, controlling for one variable: discipline referrals. Over one school year, the intervention schools experienced a two standard deviation decrease in discipline referrals while the control schools experienced a two standard deviation increase in discipline referrals. We know the more a student is with a teacher and his or her peers in a classroom setting, the more likely his or her performance will increase.

Els Prigmore, Principal at Pioneer Continuation High School in Shasta Union High School District in Redding, CA implemented the Capturing Kids’ Hearts model processes about two years ago. One of her graduating students recently described the school in her graduation address stating, “When I came to Pioneer, I felt like they gave me a sense of belonging and the support I needed to get me all the way to the finish line. I finally found a place where it was safe to ask for help; safe to risk without fear of being tripped up by people.”

Principal Prigmore, an active ACSA member and Principal of the Year, shares her Capturing Kids’ Hearts school transformation stories across the state. She and her teachers have embraced the model process and continue to experience the students’ motivational responses when they perceive their teachers care about them. How? Teachers demonstrate it every day by meeting and greeting them at the door, by starting each class on a positive note with “good things,” by making the lessons relevant because the teachers “know” each child, and by empowering every student to self-manage using a social contract they help create. This has decreased discipline referrals as much as 80% in some schools.

Jeffrey Lorenson, Athletic Director for East Nicolaus High School, stated recently, “I have committed to working the Capturing Kids’ Hearts model in all of my classes. Needless to say, this year is getting off to an unbelievable start. Students are engaged more than ever. In the classroom (I have sports med 2 periods), the model is so easy and fun now that the kids have gotten through the point of, “this is for little kids.” They love it!”

Dr. Karen Villalobos, Superintendent of East Nicolaus said, “CKH is now changing the culture of our entire high school. Students expect to be engaged as they enter the door and our ENHS social contract hangs proudly both in our front office and staff room.”

Other ACSA leaders implementing the Flippen model processes and experiencing transformational results include Bill Cornelius, Superintendent of Sutter County Schools. He is leading a Capturing Kids’ Hearts initiative with superintendents of the thirteen districts within his county. Cami Berry, before recently retiring from her post in Riverside County Office of Education, arranged Capturing Kids’ Hearts training for over 6,000 teachers and administrators over the past five years, with astonishing results. Rick Fauss, Superintendent of Redding School District, posted a letter to his district team in September stating, “During the Capturing Kids’ Hearts training, three students from a program at Pioneer Continuation High School came to talk to everyone about how this new way of connecting with students has changed their lives…Just having a teacher stand at the classroom door every morning and shake their hands and ask them how they are doing was nothing short of transformational.”

Simply put, schools are transformed from the inside out by the collective behaviors of the individuals within the organization. If educators want to stop bullying, create higher student and teacher performance, and achieve higher rigor, we all need to get connected! By creating a climate of trust and respect through the Flippen process of relationship building, the foundations are concretely established. After all, doesn’t every child deserve every teacher caring enough about them to speak hope and success into their life?


M. D. Resnick, P. S. Bearman, R. W. Blum, K. E. Bauman, K. M. Harris, J. Jones, J. Tabor, T. Beuhring, R. E. Sieving, M. Shew, M. Ireland, L. H. Bearinger and J. R. Udry, (1997), Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health; Journal of American Medical Association, Vol. 278 No. 10, September 10, 1997.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2009.

Dr. Mike Holt, PHD

Dr. Michael Holt is a native Texan who was born in Abilene and attended public schools through high school graduation. At Tarleton State University, he received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees, along with his superintendency certification. He received his Ph.D. in Education Administration and Leadership Development from Texas A&M University. Dr. Holt has over 30 years’ experience in public education as a teacher and administrator, including serving on several state level committees and initiatives, including the Professional Development and Appraisal System, state Principal Induction Committee, Texas School Improvement Initiative and chair for the Texas Math and Science Initiative. He also has over twenty years’ experience working with struggling schools and school turnarounds, and served as an inaugural member of the H.E.B. Statewide District Judging Team from 2004 to present, evaluating the highest performing schools in Texas. This experience has provided him a unique perspective of the dynamics that create exceptional learning environments and how to assist schools in overcoming the constraints of low performance. Dr. Holt also served as Executive Director for Public School Initiatives for The Texas A&M University System. This role included coordinating a statewide public school improvement initiative in mathematics, science and ELL education, partnering with over 150 struggling public schools through nine Colleges of Education within the Texas A&M University System. In August 2008, Dr. Holt left the A&M System to join The Flippen Group as a lead consultant and was later named the National Director of Educational Sales. His career goal is to help bring out the best in schools and school leaders. He is a national speaker, trainer and consultant, serving school districts in 42 states. He and his wife, Kathy, have three grown daughters and reside in College Station, TX. His interests include church activities, family, guitar, golf, boating and motorcycling.

Leave a reply

Get Your Copy of the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller

Break Free of the Behaviors
That Hold You Back

Discover Flip’s strategies for identifying the Personal Constraints holding you back and develop a plan to break free and leave them all behind!

Download a Free ChapterBuy It Now