After writing about our role in motivating our learners, I have been reflecting on what motivates me as a teacher. The end of the semester provided much food for thought and going through evaluations written by learners is always an enlightening process for me. The contrasting comments are to be expected – some love group work, others would prefer more individual tasks, more writing or giving presentations to the class – but the positive comments outweighed the negative ones, a source of extrinsic motivation for me. It is good to hear that learners find the instruction to be varied and fun as well as providing them with a safe and supportive learning atmosphere. Many also commented on how much language they acquired and felt that questions and preparation on my part were handled professionally. Helpful comments on the topics we did or suggestions for information to put on Moodle indicate involvement on the part of the learners and give me tips for the future. All of this helps at the end of a long university year to make me look forward to beginning work again in the fall.
It is interesting to note how this extrinsic motivation for me begins to move into the area of intrinsic motivation. Knowing that the large majority of my students were happy and that learning took place makes me determined to find new ideas to bring into the classroom.
What is it about teaching that makes it different?
In working on a plenary titled ‘Getting unstuck’ I began to think about our job and what makes it special. There are several professions I think in which people ‘are’ their jobs and for me being a teacher is one of them. When I hear a new word in English, I think about how to use it in class or teach it to my students, if I read an article I consider ways to present the ideas in it in class. Even on holiday, when I see something interesting, I take a picture of it or take a brochure and then often try to find a way to incorporate into a lesson if possible. In this way, my life inside and outside the classroom lend together creating a whole persona as ‘teacher’. For me this is also motivating – teaching becomes more than just a job I do – it becomes a way of life. It provides a sense of balance that I did not have in other jobs I have had. And when learners show appreciation for this, especially in such a creative way, it is icing on the cake.
To finish up with this post, I think that motivation for teachers is very connected with how we view our jobs. When we get a sense of personal satisfaction by opening someone’s mind, having them view things in new and different ways, finding ways to establish rapport in the classroom, creating an atmosphere that both learners and teachers want to be in and knowing that we have given them something which can be used in the future, motivation just becomes part of what we do. After 30+ years in the classroom, I feel it is still exciting, fun, and provides a place for a group of people (the teacher included) to broaden their horizons and gain new knowledge. Can any job provide more than that?