Student Response- What is Inspiration and Motivation?

4 students of mine have written the below post in response to my initial blog here about What Is Inspiration and Motivation in relation to their Humanutopia experience so far…

I have responded to their post or added some clarification in italics.

They would love your feedback!


When we heard that our year (Year 9) was staying open for the strike day, you can understand our disappointment. Especially when siblings/friends in younger years or other schools had the day off.
We were incredibly sceptical about our day with ‘Humanutopia’. The idea of a ‘Who am I?’ day doesn’t often appeal to a bunch of teenagers. Many people in our year were considering not coming in because they didn’t think it would be worthwhile. Little did we know…

The plan for the day was for the entire year 9 group to be in the assembly hall for the whole day!

As the day went on, none of us really truly appreciated how well we were actually interacting and engaging as a year group together. Along with the effect these total strangers were having on us. For the first time we were ALL (240 of us) chatting as friends and there were little influences of ‘the pecking order’ of our year. Graham and Tom managed to create a safe and secure environment in which everyone was appreciated; from the quietest, most insecure to the loudest, most confident. This is what effective teachers do, daily.

We were kept engaged the whole time.

This was amazing to see as a teacher, that an entire year group can be kept focussed for such an extensive period of time, without the need to break into activities. They were simply listening.

The entire day was an emotional rollercoaster and the leaders went from being funny to being serious almost instantly. We laughed, we were confused, we cried, we were disappointed (with ourselves as a year group), we were empowered and so much more; we were never bored.

Boredom is an issue that teachers and adults often perceive as rudeness.

Think about how it feels when somebody yawns in your presence?

But, from what we’ve experienced, teenagers don’t mean to be rude but often don’t know how to deal with situations that they don’t enjoy. Sometimes, teenagers are treated too much like adults. We’re expected to behave maturely and patiently when, in reality, we are just as impatient, immature and clueless as children.

Are adults the beaming examples of how to deal with things they don’t enjoy?

Teenagers definitely need an element of adult responsibility and really love the feeling of being trusted by those they look up to – it keeps them motivated, but sometimes, too much is expected of us. We definitely agree that there is a level of respect that sometimes is lacked by teenagers and sometimes we are just plain rude. But then again…. aren’t we all children, teenagers and adults alike? Why are we teens expected to behave in ways that even some adults struggle with?

Humanutopia really understood this. To them, we were young people. Young but not babies. We were trusted to respond in the correct way to stories that were told and Humanutopia were very honest and straightforward with us. They showed us respect even when they weren’t receiving it.

Should respect be a privilege rather than an expectation?

They made it more of a right – the idea that everyone should be respected, regardless of their behaviour. Teens often feel they need a reason to respect someone – however wrong and immature this sounds; it’s true. If teachers want to achieve a good teacher/ student relationship (and they should), then they need to ‘make the first move’ with respect for their pupils – they need to set the example.

How many teachers think of this the other way round?

A healthy relationship between a pupil and teacher can have all sorts of benefits – if a student is comfortable with being with a teacher they will feel they can talk to them. This can help boost grades (students asking for help themselves) and also improve well-being (if the student has someone to talk to about issues i.e at home). It also builds a bond in which neither person will want to let the other down.

There obviously needs to be a boundary between teachers and students to maintain the level of respect for adults, that is expected of children and teenagers, but it doesn’t have to be as harsh as teachers think – you want students to feel comfortable around their teachers not as if there is a massive divide.

The relationship Graham and Tom built was more about the idea that we are PEOPLE as opposed to focusing on the fact that we are adults and teenagers. They were more interested in what we had to say than our uniform or if our phone went off and really valued our opinions, thoughts and experiences. This meant we were comfortable and personal emotions and experiences were shared because we felt listened to, both by Humanutopia and our peers.
We were made more aware of the effect our words and actions can really have, which meant anything could be said without being laughed at or ignored.
Humanutopia really concentrated on giving everyone equal opportunities, whether they are top of every class or in all the teacher’s ‘bad books’. Because they were new to the school they didn’t know who the usual suspects for bad behaviour were – and they never really found out because bad behaviour seemed to totally disappear for that day.

Clean slate for all students? Always?

No-one disrupted anything, no-one was laughed at or made fun of. Maybe it was because we were made to realise how important our futures should be to us and how amazing some of our dreams and ambitions are.

As opposed to what examination grades we are trying to get our students to achieve?

Or maybe something Humanutopia were talking about just clicked in all our brains and made us think. The relationship we all had meant none of us in the room wanted to let anyone else down.

A collective sense of responsibility? 

Humour was also a big factor of the day and the way Humanutopia approached us. Students definitely react well to humour – it helps to build a comfortable environment that is engaging and interesting. Comparing lessons we have that are relaxed and allow a laugh to ones in which jokes earn us detention we really feel we work better in an environment that is more enjoyable.

The way they dressed and presented themselves DID have an effect on how we judged them. They were more relaxed so we were too. Again, it sounds rather petty but little things do affect how we react to different people.

After further involvement with humanutopia we realised how many times we were describing them as ‘inspirational’. But what does this actually mean? This is what the dictionary states:

1)  The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

How often do our students describe us as teachers, inspirational? After our lessons? After they leave?

2)  A sudden brilliant or timely idea.

But does this cover it all? Can something as important and special as inspiration actually be defined – especially by two simple sentences?

When we thought about what inspiration was being made to think of something in a different way or realising something you hadn’t before – a form of abstract thinking. As to wether or not it’s sustainable, we think it is sustainable, you just need to keep being reminded/ reminding yourself why you were inspired in the first place – humanutopia seems to always inspire us every time we see them. It would be hard for teachers to maintain the inspirational side of the relationship that we have with humanutopia , the fact that we’re not around them all the time means we make the most of our time together and this means they automatically have our respect.

Why would this be difficult? Why can we not inspire? All the time? Or is it about setting off the ball in motion?

Inspiration can be represented in many forms and we often follow the form that we can trust the most. Humanutopia was a form of inspiration which led us to be ourselves. We were taught how to appreciate ourselves which means we can inspire ourselves to achieve our full potential as humans not just scholars.

We are trying to imply that inspiration is anything and it can come in small packages regularly or a once in a lifetime experience. For some of us, Humanutopia was that inspiration and it continues to be each time we see them.

Everyone responded to the day differently – some of us wanted to carry on with the ‘heroes journey’ and the rest were just happy with as couple of whole year sessions. Even those (and there were very few!) who weren’t convinced brought something away from our time with Humanutopia. We got to see a different side to everyone and see that we are all different in a similar way and that is a good thing.

Here is a PowerPoint presentation the students presented to the Head Teacher and other Cheney Heroes. Click HERE.



  1. Thank you for posting, this is very impressive. I was particularly struck by your comments about teachers needing to make the first move as far as respect is concerned. Also, that we are all humans first, rather than the distinction between adults and adolescents. Well done, a thought provoking piece!

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