We’ve all had those moments: you wake up in the morning with zero motivation to go to work. You ask yourself: why am I doing this? Or even worse: does anything I do really matter? If I cannot find motivation for myself, how am I supposed to motivate others? All of these questions are valid for most of us as professionals, but they are of special importance to teachers. Because they are the ones who are shaping the collective consciousness of the future generations. And if they are not motivated to be at their best for their students, we are in trouble. So, what are the most easily recognized teachers’ motivators?
Bringing Home the Bacon *
Statistically, this is the absolute Number 1 – cash, bucks, resources. Whether to support a family or to build a nest egg for the future, we all need money. If a teacher is lucky, they will be working in a society where education is highly valued and the profession is well paid. I personally know a dozen teachers who lost motivation because of a thin paycheck. You might have heard the mantra: Money cannot be a motivator, it is a result. So true. And yes, I know that not everyone can afford to believe in this mantra, but this does not make it any less valid. On the other hand, this is probably the most trivial reason for any educational institution and system to lose good teachers.
* According the Cambridge Dictionary “Bringing Home the Bacon” means “to earn money for a family to live on”
Yes, the immortal words of the Roman poet, Horace. The monument that every good teacher should have, built for them by a grateful society as a sign of appreciation and respect. Respect, homage – these are the key words for this motivator, especially considering all of the effort exerted by teachers on a daily basis. In Western societies this respect is to a great extent related to the authority of the institutions behind the teachers. In the Eastern countries, respect for the educators is deeply ingrained in every citizen’s mind – it comes from within and is not imposed from the outside. Regardless of the source of the respect, what matters is that it exists, because there are also those countries and societies where teachers can only dream of being respected. Not everyone is lucky enough to be a teacher in Japan or Singapore.
Even if your monthly wage is not the best and you cannot actually tell if your students or their parents respect you, there is still one big incentive to becoming a teacher. If you are not involved in any preparatory or annual reporting activities in the summer, you have between two and three months of vacation. Who among your friends can compete with you in this regard? Moreover, many teachers spend four or five hours per day in school, when the standard working day is usually eight or nine hours long. If you think this is not a good enough argument, take a half day off from your job and see how it feels. There is one but here though… If you work nine hours for a company, the shift ends and you go home to rest, eat, sleep and… repeat. If you are a teacher, you go home and… you have to work some more because you need to prepare for your classes for the next day. So, it’s not all roses after all.
Climbing the Proverbial Ladder
In those countries where the educational system is conducive to academic growth, this is naturally one of the main motivators. There are those who have always known that they would become professors one day and who have been patiently and consistently climbing the career ladder, from the very first day that they set foot in their first educational institution as employees. There are also others who never had such plans, but at some point they weighed all the pros and cons and started to consider teaching as a lifetime career. And there is one more group that should be mentioned here – the rare birds, the unicorns, the group of those who have heard the call.
These are Teachers with a capital T. The ones that you meet and never forget. The ones who could care less about what’s in the curriculum and more about how students will benefit the most from what they’ve learned. These are teachers like the character that the late Robin Williams played in Dead Poets Society. They are exceptional people who inspire their students and who go the extra mile every day. You cannot be an inspiration to someone if you are not an inspiration to yourself, that is, if your passion for knowledge is not so insanely strong that it borders on Plato’s thea mania – the divine madness.
If you are one of those truly passionate teachers, don’t lose that spark! In fact, I don’t think you could, even if you wanted to. Your motivation to teach goes way beyond the limits that everyday obstacles are trying to impose on you. People like you are not just teachers. Passing the knowledge on to future generations is your life’s mission.
To all of you teachers out there – we thank you!