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Under the influence

An inspirational teacher can stimulate children to achieve great results, and the key is getting them to act independently, says Ted Wragg

One of the greatest skills good teachers possess is the ability to motivate children outside school hours and beyond the confines of classroom walls. To inspire young people so they want to do more, of their own free will and in their own free time, is a magical talent. Those who can achieve this are the real stars in the teaching profession.

The word "motivation" is an important one in education. Strip it down to its essentials and there are two main components - the amount of time people are willing to devote to something, and what psychologists call "arousal" or the state of mind that produces a high degree of attention.

Most teaching in school involves a teacher being present, yet in adult life we rarely have a mentor standing next to us; we have to be autonomous. Those who are not able to act independently are often passengers. If they become too dependent on someone else telling them what to do next, they may fall victim to the predators in our society - the loan sharks, confidence tricksters, snake-oil salesmen and rabble rousers.

With this in mind, why not see what you can do to persuade children to spend a little of their time and energy being global citizens during the holidays? They can develop their autonomy by raising money for their brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, who have been denied an education.

Brainstorm some ideas about what individuals, groups, families, communities and organisations might do in August. Could they organise a charitable event, such as a fete or a sports competition? Could they sell drinks, refreshments, cakes and snacks? What about a sponsored summer event, such as a walk or a swim? Can they surprise you and themselves with what they manage to collect for a good cause when they return in September? Why not let the local newspaper know what they are doing, and see what ideas anyone else might have.

Nobody becomes a concert pianist, a top athlete, or a good citizen during a few short lessons in the company of 29 others. The classroom is a place where young people can be fired up by an inspirational teacher.

Can you inspire members of your class to spend a bit of their summer raising money so children in Afghanistan can receive what should be their birthright - an education? If you can, then maybe these deserving Afghan children will in turn, one day, come under the influence of someone who switches them on to a lifetime of discovery.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University For more teaching ideas and suggestions for fundraising activities for the appeal, visit you don't have access to the web, ask for copies of the ideas from UNICEF,tel: 0870 606 3377Ideas from children or teachers can be sent toemail: or to Ted Wragg,Children Helping Children, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX.Fax: 0207 782 3205

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