These days, teacher motivation is something that many in education are struggling with. Why is it that teachers are leaving the profession? What can we do to keep them from doing so? How can we help teachers keep the “pep in their step” throughout the school year?
I often wonder if there is a correlation between ‘teacher motivation’ and ‘school leadership’. I’m sure there’s a lot of research on this, but, as you know, for someone who does not have a background in education research, it can be difficult to draw conclusions between research and practice.
What I do know is that there’s something special about teachers who remain in education for life. These “lifers” were always destined to become teachers. They feel a responsibility towards their students as well as a deep love for the profession of teaching.
That being said, between my own time in the classroom and now interacting with teachers from all over, there are some key factors that consistently help keep teacher motivation up when the going gets tough.
To the select few that never let go of that spark: Thank you for being awesome role models. Keep it up!
Five Tips for Teacher Motivation
1) Positive peer pressure is POWERFUL.
One of the most important things that I did when I first started teaching was to surround myself with teachers that were inspiring. They helped me stay motivated and kept me accountable for my own actions within the classroom. I knew what they expected, so if I didn’t do it, it would be obvious (in my mind).
I say “in my mind” because, at the end of the day, others are not as interested in you as you think (it’s true!). I don’t mean that in a negative way; just so often we get down on ourselves due to a perception of what others think, and it’s mostly unnecessary (and zaps our teacher motivation, am I right?)
If you have a teacher friend or two that is inspiring, great! Share stories and ask for advice when you’re in need. If not, find someone who is an experienced and effective educator within your school. Ask them their opinion on how to handle things in the classroom when you’re unsure. They don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but they can offer advice from their own experiences.
Positive peer culture is very powerful for keeping teacher motivation high. It’s also healthy to have colleagues that you feel comfortable venting to when things get tough too!
2) You can’t do it alone.
We all need a support system from time to time. If you have someone that you know will always be there for you, talk to them! Open up about your frustrations and ask them if they can help you work through some of the issues in your classroom so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed.
Have a support person outside of the school who you can speak with? Even better! You don’t have to share everything, but having someone that doesn’t know the politics or history of your school is even more powerful.
It’s not weak to get support from others when you’re feeling down in the dumps about teaching. Having someone listen to you is POWERFUL.
3) Plan ahead of time, not when you’re in the trenches.
The most important thing about planning your day (for me at least) was doing it before my students got into the room or even before I got out of bed in the morning. As soon as I started teaching, my days were jam-packed, and if I didn’t plan ahead, things just fell apart.
I know that not all teachers can do this because of varying class sizes or busy afternoons (when kids are coming in and out of your room), but it’s important to try! This helped me immensely throughout the year.
As part of my professional development program, “A Passion for Progress: Being a Rockstar Teacher in a Stressed-Out World“, I have 2 specific workshops that help with both time management and actually planning long-term (as far as the entire year in some cases!). Nothing helps teacher motivation more than someone guiding you with a plan that actually works.
4) Doubts will always surface.
It’s important for all of us to remember that we’re only human and doubts about teaching and/or ourselves will pop up from time to time.
I’ve had days where I even felt like quitting, but what kept me motivated was the fact that I knew if I did quit, no one would be on my side.
I had to keep going if I wanted others to have a better life through learning.
**ON THE FLIP SIDE**, in no way should you stay in a toxic environment. I once heard a saying that you should never risk your own health for a job that would replace you within a week if you died. It’s morbid, but it’s true. Read this article about toxic schools and what your options are.
You can still stay in education without being on the front lines of toxicity.
5) You’ll never experience it all on your own.
There are so many resources out there for teachers of all subjects and grade levels. Take advantage of them! I’ve found more wonderful resources from other educators than I can count. A quick Pinterest search or a look through Google will give you so many options. There is absolutely no sense in reinventing the wheel, but it is ABSOLUTELY VITAL that whatever resources you find that are made by someone else you take the time to authenticate for the students you have.
Teachers Pay Teachers is one site where people upload their own teaching resources. You can buy them or download them for free, and once you make something yourself, you can sell it on this site too!
This site saved my life multiple times. I’ve been able to find so many lessons that have saved me time and energy, allowing me to meet other parts of my job demands as well.
This website also has a ton of free resources that are great for teachers. Just change your price point to “free” when searching, and only free resources will appear.
Remembering Your Why
In this season of teaching, having teacher motivation is tough, but it becomes a lot easier when you remember why you wanted to become a teacher in the first place.
Everyone has their own reasons, but here are three major ones why I wanted to become a teacher.
1) I wanted to make a difference in my students’ lives
2) I wanted to be involved with the community (and this was one of the ways I thought I could do that)
3) I needed a job in my field
Even though I have changed my teaching style over the years, these are still very important to me.
Even when I decided to leave the classroom, I found a way to not necessarily leave the students. By training teachers as I do now, I am able to help their students as well, which allows me to have a much greater reach than I ever had in my own solitary classroom.
Basically, my why has morphed over the years, and that’s okay! The world around us is constantly changing and frankly if what drives our passion now is different than from when we first started, that is totally okay.
If you find yourself in a rough spot, ask yourself:
What is your why? What kept you going when things were at their worst? Dig deep and remember what made you love this job in the first place! That is where your motivation comes from. In the words of Hellen Keller, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
Every day is a brand new day, and every day can bring something great.
One of our retired video series, “Beating Teacher Burnout”, discusses exactly how to not only find your why, but to keep it in the forefront of your mind each and every day. Beating Teacher Burnout is now only available within “A Passion for Progress“, but it is instrumental in keeping that teacher motivation going.
When you are passionate about your work it is difficult not to become passionate about the process of learning. When teacher motivation is low, just remember your why and hold on to it with all your might.
Remember, teaching is not just a job – it’s your chance to spread your excitement for education to someone else. I know it’s tough to get through rough days sometimes, but take it one step at a time! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I am always happy to help.
Teacher Motivation and the 4 Keys
Keeping up your teacher motivation while also being present and successful in the classroom isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.