George Lucas Educational Foundation

What keeps you going and motivated?

What keeps you going and motivated?

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The education field is not always what is envisioned when we are in college. The utopia idea of coming to school and all students learn at the same level is far from the reality of the situation. As educators, how to do you stay motivated through the politics, push on state standards, paper work, behavior problems, lack of parental involvement, and more?

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Kristi Jones's picture

Knowing that you made a difference and are still remembered for it is so motivating. Congratulations on being such a great teacher!

Kristi Jones's picture

Like many of the educators who have posted on this blog, I continue to teach and gain motivation from the knowledge that I touch the lives of the kids I teach and coach. I feel that I am a positive role model where there may be few. I also strive to let all of the kids know that I love them and care about them. I think this is what truly makes a difference in their lives. Some days are harder than others, though, as we all know. When I was first starting out, my mentor teacher gave me a file folder labeled "Gee, I'm good!" She told me to keep notes from kids and parents, cards, pictures, etc in it. When I was having a rough day, I go back to that folder to see what an impact I have had in the past. This has helped me on many a bad day!

Thomas J. Bailey's picture
Thomas J. Bailey
10th World Literature/History Cohort Teacher

The reason I keep going as a teacher really comes down to something more metaphysical, a quest perhaps, a drive to make students in this generation have a much better experience and learn more effectively than when I was a student growing up. Seriously, I went to a so-called affluent and effective school district and really congruency, uniformity, and repetition were the traits of an education in that setting and not necessarily the teaching of skills, or ways of thinking, or problem solving. I would even add that not much teaching was going in many of those classroom.

And then I had a good professor when I ended up a community college who opened my eyes to the power of writing and of teaching. I also coached football with one of the best motivators in the history of high school football and I realized that we needed more teachers like these and that I would continuously improve and teach with these people as my models.

And as time went on as a teacher, I realized that if I continued to learn all that I could from those around me, to engage and understand in the nature of learning--aside from content area--that I could teach any student anything that I needed them to learn. And while I have met resistance and roadblocks, especially from harsh traditionalists, I can just about reach any kid I choose to reach and they will improve and be successful.

I call this my moral purpose, a term developed by Michael Fullan. Not only this, I have sacred obligation not only to help my own kids but to help others reach their kids. I am a teacher and instructional leader in whatever school I teach in: I teach professional development and use technologies. I join groups like edutopia to see what else is out there and to find more treasures in reaching kids under more areas.

My kids and what they do is what keeps me going. My kids rarely fail even though many of them have every reason to fail, poverty, family destruction, violence, poor abilities when they walk into the class, etc.

I will not accept that and we tend to be successful working together.

Jason's picture
high school math teacher

As a teacher and a coach, what motivates me is knowing I have a postive impact of many of my students lives. Educational politics and students lack of motivation can be frustrating at times but the positive influences I have on some of my students help keep me going.

Ellen Francis's picture
Ellen Francis
High school geometry teacher

I get satisfaction from knowing that students have learned something they never knew before. When a student comes to me and says "I like the way you take the time to explain things to me," I get the feeling I am doing something right. I wish all teachers would realize we have positive impacts on the lives of others. We cannot control the negative things said about those in our profession. We have to be secure enough to know we are providing the most noble service there is.

Pat's picture

What motivates me to keep teaching is that "ah-ha" moment. It's the moment when a student's eyes light up, and they realize they have succeeded in learning something new. It's that look of pride and satisfaction on their face that keeps me motivated, and makes me feel that despite the pressures, politics, and attitudes in the educational community, I can still make a difference in a child's life. That is powerful!

Nate's picture

After reading through these postings, I have found 2 main reasons that keep me going. The first is certainly for the kids. They deserve the best of us even if we are struggling with other parts of our job. When we are actually teaching, it doesn't seem like much of a job; but once they leave we remember all of the other aspects of teaching that can be very tedious. The second is one that I sometimes forget about when I am away from teaching for a bit. The ah-ha moment. It definitely changes my feelings in a class when I see this happen. I get so much joy out of teaching something difficult and then I see that light turn on. One way I like to utilize this moment, is to let that student show the class an example using the information they have just learned.

Kerry Bernier's picture
Kerry Bernier
Ninth grade Special Education teacher at Regional Vocational HS

I agree with many of the other teachers comments; it is absolutely the students that keep me motivated. Frustrated at times, yet motivated to keep waking up every morning and engaging them in learning new activities to help them get ready to be the best they can be! I also credit my wonderful colleagues- we share, we vent, we laugh and we support each other every day, and without all of them I wouldn't be the teacher I am today! Thanks to both students and colleagues for keeping me motivated!

Jeanie Greenidge's picture

The piled on stuff - is frustrating sometimes and can feel so extraneous that it can make you wonder. My advice is go to the students then. Care for them - engage them - try things with them that gets them thinking as learners - remember the art and the craft of this job that is your calling. The students will keep you centered. Most of the paperwork and extra stuff has a real purpose and is part of the profession, too. You are a professional - be professional with all aspects of your work - keep learning about your craft - use your heart and your head. Be the best teacher you can be. It comes down to you and those students in your class. What mountains will you move? Get busy.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Hi Michelle,

We selected your question to ask our audience on Facebook and they had some great answers:

Here's some we liked (over over 100!):

:: Judy Jennings Look into the eyes of your students. They are looking to you for hope and a future. Know your student well and find a way let them know they are important to you....That you see the potential in them. Visit their family and get to know why their parent is not involved. You may be surprised to find how involved some of these parents are. Know the politics are the small stuff...important to be active when you can, but do not beat yourself down when you can't.

:: Ashley Lauren 2 reasons keep me motivated: I love my students and the moment when the magic happens---watching them do something that I taught them how to do!!!! It's goosebumps amazing!! Especially the satisfaction of seeing my students' writing and reading skills improve.

:: Kelly Brown When I first started teaching, I began a binder with notes and pictures and uplifting things that children and parents and colleagues would give me. When I get tired or depressed, I go to the binder and relive some of the better moments, it always helps. The binder has gotten big and heavy over the years, but it never fails to provide uplift when I need it the most.

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