I’ve always had something to prove. I’m short. Left-handed. Texan.

It’s not something I think much about because I inherited my mother’s confidence. The interesting thing about confidence is that it doesn’t buffer you against very specific, very particular kinds of insecurities. Sometimes they’re rooted in things you can see, at other times they catch you completely off guard.

As adult educators we tend to believe that confident students are more motivated ones. We believe that under-performing students merely lack confidence in themselves, and if we can only empower them to have greater self-efficacy they will learn better, and they will learn more. If ever we find an outlier (that one incredibly overconfident but overwhelmingly unmotivated student), we grow frustrated. We can’t fathom why anyone anywhere could possibly not WANT to learn.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to have something to prove. How does it motivate us? How does it stifle us? As educators, are we able to use this knowledge to draw students out of themselves so they can accomplish what they doubt they can even accomplish?

Is it wrong to presume that we know what someone else might have to prove?

High School Equivalency programming is essential and necessary, but students in pursuit of their GED are often met with condescension and derision. They’re accused of being unmotivated, fearful of success and insecure. They’re accused of being undisciplined.

Master teachers: 
Are confidence and motivation inextricably linked?
How do you motivate the “unmotivated” student?
How do you discern what a student has to prove?

If these aren’t the right questions, what are the right ones?