Better Teacher Motivation

Teacher Motivation

Motivation has a far reaching impact. It affects more than just you; it touches the lives of your students, colleagues, and families.

Teachers fall into one of two groups:

  1. Some, whose motivation dials are permanently set to 'high’.
  2. Everyone else.

This Teacher Motivation article is for you if you’re in group 2.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is the reason why you do what you do. So, because you teach, the obvious question to ask yourself is

Why do I teach?

Take five minutes to list reasons - you’ll probably wonder what you were worrying about. Or end up quitting.:)

The most helpful way to think of it is as fuel – as gas drives a car, so motivation drives you to act. For example, you’re motivated to be on the internet now, specifically on this web page.

A car eventually runs out of gas - motivation will do the same, unless you “fill up” with reasons, as the five minute example above showed.

Two Types of Teacher Motivation

To get motivated for the short term, such as a day or a lesson, you can motivate yourself relatively easily.

Keeping motivated in the long term requires a different approach...

Getting Motivated

We all have times when it’s a real effort to get going. When that happens, a short term motivational boost is needed. A great habit that I practice and highly recommend is the “TSS” formula:

T - Think about what it is you want

It’s amazing how often we let our feelings dictate our thoughts. Try doing it the other way round. When you choose to ‘invest’ your thoughts towards anything, the ‘thought’ of it becomes more appealing and it feels better.

S - Say what you want

The way you talk to yourself really affects your thoughts and thoughts become things – whatever we think about, we tend to get more of. Try using affirmations on your way into school in the morning.

S - See what you want

What you are exposed to will affect the way you think and feel. Goals, pictures, affirmations and motivating quotes really do work.

To motivate yourself in the short term, make it a habit to ‘advertise’ to yourself. Think of your most challenging time of the week and try TSS. It works wonders, even on a cold Monday morning. It’s even more effective on weekends:)

Staying Motivated

On the theme of habits, practice ”think, say, see” on a daily basis - you'll undoubtedly benefit for lessons, days, weeks, even months.

But what if you suspect the issue runs deeper?

If you struggle with teacher motivation on a consistent basis, the first step is to go back and ask yourself “why do I teach?” Consider this formula:

                                 Motivation = Meaning + Feeling

Feelings (defined by working conditions), often smother meaning. It’s worth remembering that they are, to some extent, transitory – if you don’t like the job you’re in, is it teaching (meaning) or the school (working conditions) that’s affecting your level of motivation?

To answer this question, invest in one or more of these:

  • Time (definitely) – make time to ask yourself why you’re a teacher. What are, or were, the benefits of becoming a teacher? Is being a teacher in line with what you most want in life? Start with that question and write down what comes to your mind. Helpful answers and deeper questions will reveal clearer understanding.
  • People (probably) – talk about it with others, preferably those without an agenda of their own. Other people who you trust will help you express your thoughts and feelings. You’ll also get questions to make you think. Be careful though – if they appear to tell you what to do, they are not encouraging you to ‘own’ the answer.
  • Money (possibly) – professional coaching will, of the three, be the most likely to help you discover whether you should stay in teaching or consider other options. Let’s be realistic; nobody goes to work buzzing with enthusiasm every single day. It's called work for a reason. As M.Scott Peck put it so profoundly, “Life is difficult”.

True, but it’s also worth remembering that there is a difference between living (challenging and purpose driven) and simply existing (easy but meaningless).

Which are you doing?

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