From Victim to Victor

Education Speaker

“You cannot think negative about a child and expect a positive outcome.”

Those are the words of motivational keynote speaker Derek Clark, an inspiring speaker for educator conferences and teacher in-service training. His presentations are meant to motivate, encourage, entertain as well as share strategies on how to connect with and inspire students. Through his life story, Derek knows first hand how the compassion of a teacher inspired him to reach his potential. His life was full of adversity before he even came into this world and then was subjected to brutal child abuse, abandoned at a psychiatirc facility at age five… and then… navigated through the foster care system for the next thirteen years. He is a firm believer that mental health in schools should be a prioirty to address as well.

Here is a recent testimonial from San Bernardino school district educator wellness conference in California:

“Hi Derek, I just wanted to say that as someone who speaks at conferences and trainings all over, I have heard hundreds if not a thousand speakers over the years…and you my friend are the best I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing your story today!!!!!” – Teacher – Mr. Amundson


Derek shares some of his strategies below on how to motivate students and build a connection with them.

Motivating Students

When it comes to the indicators of motivation, there are three overall: choice, effort, and persistence. Teachers must acknowledge students’ necessity for self-determination and independence, and create opportunities to make positive choice. Realize that students may be naturally and unnaturally driven to learn. Although having a room filled with students who are naturally driven to learn seems to be much better, it is still comprehensible that getting good grades, acceptance, and rewards motivates students. Natural and unnatural motivation doesn’t survive at a single time, but on two distinct ones, and students may frequently have several destinations for the same course. Normally, students would direct their behavior alongside certain actions that they prefer and on activities in which they are enthusiastic about for success.

Take advantage of students’ present needs

In motivating students, it’s ideal to use their interest and intrinsic state of mind. When courses are designed in a way that students learn best, they will be driven to learn; this can be made possible by providing incentives that enable learning in a classroom that suits their reason for choosing the course. Certain needs which students tend to come to the classroom with are, the need to discover something that would enable them complete a project or duty, the need to get new expertise, the need to master certain acquisitions, the need to get over challenges, the need to get efficient, the need to become successful, the need to feel accepted by people. Being able to attend to such needs is pleasing and gratifying, and this kind of gratification is much more effective than grades. Come up with assignments, classroom duty, and discussions that can handle these needs.

Student’s active participation should be your duty

Students are able to learn from what they make, do, write, design, create and solve. In-activeness of students kills motivation and curiosity. Throw questions to students; encourage them to bring up ideas to solving a problem or to think about outcomes for experiments.

Find out from students the classes that are more motivating

Listen to them. Get to know your students. An effective way to know what motivates students are by finding out directly from the students. Get to know what type of teachings motivate the most and the ones that don’t. Attract the student’s abilities and interests. To develop natural motivation, we must create an avenue for understanding and reliance. If you haven’t seen the movie Freedom Writers or read the book, I strongly encourage you to do that. I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage and speaking at an event with “Mrs. G” (the teacher who inspired her students) and we had a great conversation about how to connect with students especially those who have gone through a lot of trauma. Don’t be afraid to share a part of your life experience to your classroom.

Assist students in coming up with attainable goals and support their dreams no matter how outlandish they seem.

Never discount their goals or dreams. You have no right to tell them that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, tall enough, etc… Be a people builder and not an assassinator of dreams. Many people do that and your classroom shouldn’t be the place to crush dreams. Inability to achieve “wild” goals can be highly disappointing and weakening to students but encourage them to work towards them everyday. I met an 18 year old that told me he wanted to play in the NBA. He said people have told him that he is too short. I told him to go for it. You never know what his dream will lead him to. Maybe it will be a NBA coach or a sports writer. Don’t be the one who crushes their dream. Inspire them to focus on their long-term growth, not just on exams or one assignment.

Let students know what it takes to succeed in your course

Your students shouldn’t go through hassles to know what they need to. Communicate to them what you expect. Always let them know that they can perform better in your course, and let them know what it would take to succeed. Your go to question with any student can be “How can I help you? Build the student’s self esteem and motivation by connecting to them.


Be zealous about your subject.

A teacher’s liveliness is an important component in student motivation. Once you get uninterested or indifferent, students will too. Ordinarily, a teacher’s sprightliness is a result of assurance, excitement about the content, and good pleasure in teaching. Once you get yourself uninterested in the material, consider what appealed to you in the field and elevate the delivery to your students. You can also push yourself to come up with the most interesting method to present the material, no matter how dull the material may seem to you.

Motivation is both influenced by negative and positive remarks, but research always points out that students are more moved by positive feedback and success. Praise strengthens students’ self-confidence, ability, and self-esteem. Also, acknowledge their genuine attempt even though the result may be less than your expectations. If a student’s performance is poor, let the student know that you trust he or she can get better and succeed with time.

Being a teacher is tough and they are sure to get burnt out every now and then but Derek helps them find the fire within to keep on purpose. His teacher in-service programs inspire educators to have hope power and to know that they have the power to make a difference.

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