How has teacher motivation changed over the years and specifically more recently with educational changes.
It used to be that being a schoolteacher was an almost universally celebrated profession. Without them, there wouldn’t be any doctors or lawyers or engineers or even writers. They didn’t (and still don’t) make the type of living associated with their importance, but for many teachers, it was the selflessness of the job and knowing they were shaping future minds that inspired them to forge ahead. Children walking into their classroom was teacher motivation enough.
Today, though, teachers are under immense pressure. They get it from parents, from staff, and from the unruliness that has become today’s child. So, it should come as no surprise that trying to find some teacher motivation has become more and more difficult. How do teachers avoid burnout in today’s landscape? What keeps them hanging on?
THE HONORABLE PROFESSION
As we mentioned, being a teacher meant you were highly looked upon and highly respected. Parents knew you were there for one thing and one thing only – their child. There was no mistake about it, there was no hidden agenda; teachers were there to teach. Students and parents only saw the surface teacher and motivation was implied.
What they didn’t know was that on top of spending long days before class, during class, and even for a time after school, teachers many times took their work home with them just to make sure they weren’t overwhelmed the next day. They had papers to grade, which was time-consuming. When there weren’t papers to grade, there were lesson plans to work out. For teachers, teaching didn’t happen just in the classroom. But teacher motivation was easy.
Teachers knew that their job was not only to teach children specific subjects, but it was also their job to enlighten students, to stimulate them. Teachers were there to guide students, to impart wisdom even if said wisdom wasn’t classroom related. Teachers were often there as a sounding board and sadly, even as a form of protection. Teacher motivation walked through the door every morning when the class bell rang.
Now, don’t misunderstand. While we do talk about teaching in the past tense, it doesn’t mean that teachers are less important in today’s society. Unfortunately, today’s society is not yesterday’s. Things have changed drastically and today, finding teacher motivation can be quite a fluid proposition.
TEACHING IN TODAY’S LANDSCAPE
Life has changed drastically over the past few years, and it can be evidenced in our schools. The COVID pandemic has wreaked havoc throughout the world, having a mass effect on how teachers teach and students learn. From the mass shutdowns and lockouts to virtual learning, teachers lost their day-to-day standing in front of their class being able to have that human connection. Say what you will about today’s wonderful technology, but there is a huge difference between sitting by oneself in front of a computer monitor trying to pay attention to whatever a teacher is droning on about versus actually being in class, listening to a teacher in person. Not only is it hard for kids to get motivated but try being in a teacher’s shoes and finding teacher motivation for that way of instructing.
Teacher motivation, today, doesn’t just come from the students in their class. It also comes from staff and the school board. If they don’t feel like their principal or the school board has their backs, motivation to teach begins to wane. Teacher motivation can also come from an outside source – parents. If parents are on board with the school curriculum, life can be much easier for teachers. But if parents don’t care for the direction school teachings are leaning, they can make life quite difficult for teachers. You can see where we are going with teacher motivation.
Sadly, and the numbers bear out, teachers are leaving their profession in droves. Low pay, the return from the COVID hiatus, and lack of respect, all these issues have finally taken their toll. But what about the ones who are determined to stick it out through thick and through thin? How do these teachers stay motivated and how do they avoid burnout?
TEACHER MOTIVATION IDEAS
We know the challenges teachers face today. We know they are under constant pressure and what little respect and credit they are now given. Some teachers are leaving the profession for those reasons, but some are continuing to press forward. It isn’t easy for teachers to walk into a classroom with the disrespect tossed their way. They somehow have to find that teacher motivation. Here are a few ideas that may help.
- What’s Your Intention – At first, this may not sound like a teacher motivational idea, so bear with us here. It isn’t uncommon for a teacher to feel drained to the point of being burned out. One way to hopefully curb that is to set a daily intention. Things you want to accomplish, as a teacher, for your day. Maybe you want to get to know your students better. Perhaps you feel you need to stay calm when things got loud or out of hand. Whatever your intention is, set it. Then when you come home at night, see if you achieved your goal. After a while, these intentions become daily realities. Don’t stray.
- Motivational Quotes – Why not? There are plenty of motivational quotes that do just that – motivate. Embrace them. Here is a good one from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” There are plenty more where that came from. You can find some here.
- Switch Things Up – By that we mean the area in which you work, your desk. Bring in things that make you happy. Pictures of family, of friends, of fun things. When that has been accomplished, maybe you decide to change up the room a bit. Move your desk to a different area and change the student seating in class. Keep yourself on your toes and switch things up to keep you motivated.
- Switch Things Up, Part II – While we are on the subject of switching things up, why not take it even further? Do you feel less motivated because you constantly run your class in the same manner? That same routine can find one’s motivation lacking, so change it. Instead of students coming in, taking roll, and diving into work, why not flip the script a bit? Take five minutes to talk about a news item, a sports game, or an important event one of the students had. Maybe yoga is the thing you want to introduce. Have your students come in and participate in a brief yoga routine. Get creative. Creativity leads to motivation.
There are other ways to motivate teachers and it doesn’t have to come from the teachers themselves or even the students. If you are part of the school’s administrative staff, you can also be a big help with teacher motivation. Here are a number of ways to help.
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- Teacher Praise – As a school administrator, there is nothing better for teacher motivation than to hear praise. If they have a sense of value, that can be one of the biggest motivators around. Give teachers praise. Show them you see the great work they are doing. Drop a name or two during your morning announcements. Show them some love.
- Availability – One thing teachers love to know is that they are all in it together, including the administration. Teacher motivation can come from knowing they can approach admin and that admin will actually be there for them is a major step in keeping teachers motivated. Maybe even jump the gun a bit and query teachers as to their needs before teachers have that need.
- The Small Things – We all know school budgets are tight. This is one of the main reasons teachers struggle. But maybe as an administrator, a tiny bit of the budget can be directed at the small things teachers like. Perhaps you can reward the hard-working teachers with gift cards. Teacher motivation could soar.
- That Voice – Teachers need to be heard. They like to know that their efforts are not in vain. There is teacher motivation in being able to speak their peace and be involved with some of the decision-making that affects their day-to-day.
TEACHER MOTIVATION FINAL THOUGHTS
We are not going to lie and if you surveyed the teachers across the nation, they will confirm – it isn’t easy being a teacher. They have a bullseye on their backs each and every day. They know one simple misstep might bring heat onto them they are not prepared to handle. They work with minimal to zero budget, many times they end up funding their classroom themselves, and even more often, they see their students go without. In a profession that should be regaled, one that should be looked upon with the utmost respect, it sadly is not happening. Teacher motivation becomes a chore. Let’s not make it a chore for them. Let’s find a way to give the teachers the respect they deserve. Our future depends on them.