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Time to End Students’ Need for Instant Gratification

When you were in your educational psychology class a few years back, you probably learned about instant gratification. This behavior, at heart, is when we pursue what we want, when we want it. Often, that means now. The primal need couldn’t be more evident in our school children – and it’s up to us educators to redirect it.
That’s more true now in the digital age than ever. When students want to contact someone, they pick up the phone and text them. When they want information, they pick up the device and research it. When they want music, they turn to iTunes or Spotify and access your digital library. When someone wants to schedule something, well, their calendar is very accessible at their fingertips.
So is just about everything – except patience.
For the past few days in my class, students have been working with me in our IMC / library. Each student is working on their own project – either intensively researching for their National History Day project in my advanced classes or composing an essay as to why travelers wanted to immigrate to specific colonies. During that time, I’m asking these 12- and 13-year-old 7th graders to think and work for themselves and by themselves. My role is to provide “guide on the side” oversight. Indeed, during our 43 minute periods, students will often have questions and need redirection. That’s what I’m there for, and a well-composed and scaffolded lesson coupled with a teacher can typically empower any student to succeed on a self-directed project.
But one thing I’ve noticed is that some students have no idea where the boundary is to ask those questions and seek my advice. In fact, some students don’t even see you talking to somebody else, whether it’s one of their peers or one of my own. They just know that they have a need / question / concern. And they need the answer now.
To them, I am nothing more than an app, a website, a click of a button – and we educators need to stop the instant gratification needs in its tracks.

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