As a teacher, everything you do in the classroom has an unprecedented ripple effect, including your general attitude. This article discusses how a teacher’s lack or abundance of motivation affects their students.
Think back to your school or college days: think of one teacher who inspired and enthralled you, and another that didn’t – why was this? What were the differences? As well as sharing a passion not just for their subject but for learning, one key difference was their motivation. Excellent teachers are fuelled by their passion for student learning. This often grows through the effort it takes to become a qualified teacher, whether that be through a traditional university route, or by starting off with an online teaching course. As a teacher or teaching assistant, you are now in the position to pass on vital skills and knowledge to your students.
An excellent teacher fuels the natural curiosity to learn that is in us all. But why is motivation important?
A successful learning environment
Motivation is key to a successful classroom whether it is a class full of primary school children or a workshop in a college setting.
A motivated teacher has a different outlook that one who is simply ‘going through the motions’.
Motivation is what energises, directs and sustains positive behaviour in the classroom. It means creating challenging goals alongside activities and tasks that help a student or class reach these dizzying heights.
Sparking the desire to explore and to learn, a motivated teacher doesn’t necessarily mean someone who bounces around the classroom with unfettered energy. It isn’t about being popular, either.
Value and respect
In considering motivation and teachers, we need to think back to the two examples we started with.
What kind of learning environment did the good teacher create? And what kind of environment did the not-so-good teacher create? Was this experience particular to you or was it shared by the whole class?
The truth is, you may have found some lessons and a certain teacher boring, but the person sat next to you found it interesting and seemed to do well.
A motivated teacher is one who personalises and individualises learning. And to do so, they create a learning environment in which they value and respect each individual learner.
There is a saying – try to teach a goldfish to climb and it will spend the rest of its life thinking it is stupid – and this is what underlies the teaching methods of a teacher motivated to help ALL their students to learn.
Teaching is not a personality contest BUT, personality and likability do play a part in fostering a successful learning environment.
Teacher training today looks at every aspect and every minute of the lesson, from the greeting at the door of the classroom, to the respect within the four walls of the learning space, to how a lesson is ended.
It is also about a teacher interacting with students outside of the classroom when they engage with students in the hallways, the canteen, the schoolyard and other areas of the school or college.
When a student feels a personal connection with a teacher, they engage better. More importantly, they want to engage with someone they see and feel as liking them but valuing and respecting them too.
Teacher motivation in the classroom – what does it look like?
What makes a good teacher is a combination of all kinds of factors, principles, skills and more than a dash of personality;
- Kindness and approachability – most of us will remember a teacher who is not only kind and nice, but approachable too. When a student asks a question or seeks clarification, what attitude are they met with?
- Warm, welcoming and stimulating – a motivated teacher will use every part of their classroom to inspire and stimulate. From wall displays to objects on display, the classroom is welcoming and clearly a place to learn and explore.
- A ‘happening’ place – worksheets and presentations have their place, but a motivated teacher isn’t frightened to create a ‘happening’ learning environment. In other words, students don’t spend the whole time sat behind desks, copying from books or be lectured to. They interact, physically moving around, asking questions, experimenting and trying new things.
- Connections – when a child or student learns something new, what happens with it? Does it get put into a box in the mind or is it related to real-life? Successful teachers are able to bring about the connections that complete the learning circle for a student, connecting a skill or piece of knowledge with the world around them.
Motivation has long been studied by modern and ancient scholars. What do you think it is? What motivates you to learn and to teach?