Your class is the worst class I’ve ever stepped into

By Matthew Zachary Liu

I have immense difficulty with this one class.. they have the reputation of being the “worst class” in terms of behaviour and maybe grades; it’s always extremely challenging because the students are just generally disinterested and hard to handle.

I tried just about everything I could on my part to motivate and inspire them.. but failed. So with nothing to lose, I thought of another "could work brilliantly or fail tragically" idea. I wanted them to motivate and inspire themselves.I had to do something crazy to make this somewhat captivating enough for them.. and so I did.

“Your class is the worst class i’ve ever stepped into,”. I stated outright.

Many barely bat an eyelid. Some even had their eyelids shut slumped over their desks. “It’s true!” someone shouted. “We’re the worst class in school!" they laughed.

“Here’s the thing, I want you prove to me that i'm wrong to assume and label your class as the worst class.. I want you to prove to me that you guys are not the worst but you’re in fact, the best,” I issued the challenge.

“I’m going to throw in an incentive, the person who can speak up and convince me why your class is not the worst but in fact the best, you will.. (unfortunately the only thing I had there and then was my wallet which only had a single blue note in it but I took it out anyway) get this,”.

Every one stopped whatever they were doing or were talking about. Even the sleeping beasts started awakening. I had the absolute attention of the class.

“I’m serious. To any one in this class who can really tell me why your class isn’t the worst but is in fact the best.. $50 is yours."

Miraculously (or maybe motivated by money), one by one the students started standing up and speaking up on their own accord. The beautiful thing was, the initial few said things to “try their luck in getting the reward”.. but as more and more people started speaking up, the intensity, the seriousness and passion started to build from one person to the next.

And then unexpectedly, the “chief/ring leader of the class” stood up.

“.. what do you define as worst? Our behaviour? Our attitude? Our grades? Just because we don’t always behave the way we should in class doesn’t make us bad.. we’ve just got a stronger personality that we’re not afraid to show and some people just can’t handle that. Just because we don’t have the best grades.. so what? Everyone’s going to be a degree holder in the future but grades alone won’t matter. We’ve got the attitude, the personality, the drive and passion that will take us further than the grades on our paper..”

The “ring leader” then went on to reason why their class is in fact the best.. singling out certain individuals highlighting their strengths and contributions (resulting in a lot of “awww” moments), citing moments where their class showed strength and unity against the odds and the ones who looked down on them.. it was literally like a war cry but such was the passion and conviction that the entire class was responding to every sentence and erupted in cheers at the end of the “ring leader’s” speech.

When they eventually calmed down.. I explained the whole purpose of why I put them through what I just made them do..

See, the incentive was merely a spontaneous idea to get their attention, to make them intrigue enough to listen (I didn’t tell them this part, I told them the next part).. when I put up a reward, they became motivated to give a shot, they felt they had something tangible to work towards.. I didn’t force them, I merely showed them what’s up for grabs. They came to their own self realisation that they would and could work their butts off when they actually wanted something, perhaps they just needed that extra initial push.

Yes, their initial motivation might have simply been to get the incentive.. but as each subsequent student stood up to speak up, the mood, the motivation and passion started to shift.. it became less about the money and more about really believing and meaning what they say.

I told them even though I started this off by challenging them "to prove me wrong" that they’re not the worst class.. everything that they said - those words didn’t come from me.. it came from their own hearts and those of their classmates. Because deep inside, they refuse to accept that they are the worst but actually believe that they are the best. And they’re right. I told them at the end of the day, it wasn’t about proving it to me or anyone else for the matter.. what they ended up doing - they proved it to themselves.. in their own words.. straight from the heart where they believe it’s true.

Before I gave the $50 to one person in the class.. I offered an option.. whoever gets it, can choose to keep it for themselves because they earned it.. or they can donate it to the class fund. The “ring leader” got the incentive.. and this student chose to donate it to the class fund.

Hmm.. I know i’m probably gonna get quite a bit of flak for doing what I did with this class.

I just want to say that I completely understand how some of my methods are crazy or unorthodox and I take full responsibility for it.. but my personal belief and stand on education is.. students learn best when it matters and it’s relatable to them, when they think deeper and experience it on their own rather than being told or taught off the books.

At the end of this class, the “ring leader” came up to me personally and said “thank you, really.. and on behalf of the class, thank you”.

That, coming from the most difficult student from the “worst class” meant a whole lot to me.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Mr Matthew Zachary Liu. Do share your thoughts about his style of motivation on the page itself.


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