What Motivates You?

As educators we are not in the profession for the money. NFL players that are currently holding out for a better deal will make more in yearly bonuses than most teachers will make in a career. I have followed Daniel Pink’s work on motivation and what actually causes people to work hard and achieve more. According to his work, people are not motivated in large part due to incentives such as money. With this in mind, why are legislators pushing merit based pay? While I agree with the concept of better teachers being paid better (think about athletes…). However, show me a legitimate way to do this. Teachers cannot be statistically categorized like a NFL player and therefore neither can their students.

If money is not motivating teachers, then what is? I cannot speak for all teachers, but here are a few of the things that motivate me as a teacher.

I am motivated…

...when a light bulb goes off and a student “gets it” for the first time.

...by the fact that my students are not to blame for the current troubles in the world, and yet they will be called upon to fix them.

...when I get a letter from a student I had five years ago about how I changed his life.

...by my student’s passion for learning.

...through collaborating with peers in my building as well as my extended PLN across the globe.

...when an idea that begins in my classroom is shared and implemented in other classrooms and schools by people I have never met.

...by my students taking ownership for their learning and taking it to places I never planned on.

...by the idea that there is always a better way to do my work and a fear of being mediocre.

...to be the kind of teacher that parents feel safe and confident sending their child to on a daily basis.

...through the relationships with my students beyond the role of a teacher but is a friend, confidant, counselor, guide, and advisor.
There are many reasons that people are motivated by the work they do. If you are not motivated to do the work you are doing, then maybe it is time to find a new road…

What motivates you to be an educator?


Tammy said...

Great post Josh! You put the words to why teachers do what they do. It's far to intense and important a job to do if the rewards weren't intrinsic.

Lisi Emmett said...

Thanks for this post! It motivated me! I am struggling to find a teaching job after being laid off in December and was contemplating taking a job at a local factory with my biology degree. I don't want to be a lab rat though. Your list reminded me why I chose a low-paying, often low-respected (by students, parents and governments) profession. It is those "Ah-ha!" moments, those moments when the walls break down, those moments when a student starts to believe in themselves, or when they accomplish something they never thought possible that motivate me. Thanks again.

Mrs S said...

Thanks for a great post. Your first point is the one that resonates most with me. See the lightbulb moment is reward that keeps me enjoying teaching.

Ms A said...

Josh, great post. It always makes me smile to see my thoughts mirrored by other educators. One thing I'd add to the list:

I'm motivated by the energy and passion my kids have when they're excited about something and can hardly wait to share it with me / the world.

I'm motivated by the days my kids make me cry because they're real people with real lives.

Mrs. Lusignan said...

... by the excitment in finding innovative and engaging ways to teach and, subsequently, encouraging internal motivation in each student.