For a Motivated New Year
A lot is said in the literature about students’ motivation and how important a role it plays in a healthy and effective classroom environment. With the beginning of the academic year in Brazil, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at how we can keep our own motivation levels high throughout the year. After all, motivated teachers are better teachers, right?
Rather than going on and on about theories of motivation, I’ll try to stick to practical ideas that come not only from my own personal experience – actions that help me keep focussed and asking for more – but also from the trajectories of teachers I’ve followed closely. They do assume, however, that teachers are motivated by the need to help students perform better, by an urge to always become better at what we do and by being part of a healthy teaching community.
Innate (or are they?) characteristics such as charisma, interpersonal skills and empathy go a long way in the practice of teaching, and many teachers rely on them for their entire career. However, a great teacher is not only the one that is funny, caring or brilliant at keeping the group together; a lot of hard work and study goes into the recipe, too. Learning is the core of our profession and the longer we remain far from it in the “receiver” end, the more obsolete and irrelevant we become.
Any course has the potential to give us the energy boost we need in our career and help us look at our practice from a different perspective, but the biggest turnarounds I’ve seen in teachers’ careers and motivation come from high-demand, high-reward courses, such as the CELTA, ICELT and DELTA. Obviously, the journey is never a smooth ride, but ask anyone who’s taken them and they’ll surely give you a testimony of a life-changing experience.
Everyone wants feedback…allegedly! It is not uncommon, however, to see professionals from all areas running away or attempting to discredit any critique that is not exactly what they want to hear, and teachers are certainly not immune to it. Such (often veiled) resistance to criticism is probably one of the reasons why it is so difficult to receive genuine feedback, so you’ll probably have to take the matter in your own hands and actively ask for it.
A tap on the shoulder and a compliment may have an immediate impact in terms of motivating you for yet another challenging term, but they may also become just a temporary energy boost that wanes after the first hard week. Having some light shed on the areas where there are more opportunities for development, on the other hand, can help you set clear and relevant objectives and allow you to work on them, which could help motivation increase in the long run.
Get involved in your school’s activities
Sense of belonging is a great motivator and so is sense of achievement. English institutes and schools usually promote a number of extra-class activities that allow students to benefit from the extra input, exposure to cultural aspects, or simply the fun of it all.
From a professional perspective, being involved in the team effort can help strengthen the bonds among teachers, students, coordination and other staff. Also, great growth can come from the development of the skills involved in researching topics, writing a plan of action, thinking about ways to publicise the events and evaluate their reach and effectiveness etc.
Give someone a helping hand
The process of working together with a peer teacher can be extremely rewarding. From spontaneous interaction in the staff room to a more structured peer coaching programme, the mere action of talking to somebody about lessons we have taught or those we are going to teach can remind us of what led us to teach in the first place.
Talking overtly about how learners reacted to activities we proposed and the exercise of trying to make adjustments to lessons so that students will perceive the real relevance of the work done in class can result in great insights for all those involved. After all, it is the need to share experience and knowledge in ways that go beyond books that justifies the very existence of our profession.
I wish us all a fantastic academic year, full of the accomplishments that will keep on helping us become the best teachers we have the potential to be!