In the modern classroom, there are endless tools, tricks, and strategies available to enhance the learning experience for students. However, the less-asked question remains: who keeps the teacher motivated? Teaching is a demanding, high-energy job, no matter the grade or subject. Here are a few ways you can stay motivated in the classroom, especially as we embark upon the short-attention-span-long-vacation holiday season.
Keep it Meaningful, To You and to Them
Yes, it’s important to keep up with content necessary to advance your students to the next grade, or pass the next cumulative review. But it is just as valuable to present them material to which they feel a connection. When I was in third grade, my teacher brought in a picture of her standing on The Four Corners when teaching us United States geography. Ever since, I’ve loved learning about the fifty states, and I still remember that moment – I have yet to get to The Four Corners, but it’s a goal!
I now teach music, and I enjoy watching students learn pieces I liked playing at their age; it’s remarkable how they tend to like those pieces, too. It creates a special teacher-student bond. The timelessness of Beethoven’s Für Elise certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
If your students see that a topic resonates with their teacher, they draw parallels to it to their own lives. Teaching about things as light as honeybees or as intense as Anne Frank’s biography, students connect if they sense their teacher is also engaged, and if they seem to enjoy what they’re teaching. Bridge the gap between required content and special, creative topics, and see your students interact.
Make Personal Connections – Learn About Your Students
It can be as simple as asking them each what they did over the weekend, or greeting them at the classroom door, but children want to feel accepted and included. This remains true for the majority of their school experience, as they strive for understanding amongst their teachers and peers. Keeping up on their progress and remaining available and open for questions and help gives students a “comfort zone” to learn more in a safe, judgment-free way. Find something unique in each kid, allow them to be individuals, and they will likely be more active, thoughtful class participants.
Write them in a list, or put them in your calendar – envision what you want to carry out within the span of a school year. The day-to-day of classroom life can start to feel like a grind, but by setting small – and large – goals, you are nudging yourself in the right direction. Continuing to make small changes and work toward larger initiatives expands your reach as a teacher, but also improves the quality of your classroom for both you and your students. Start small, and make the goals reasonable, so it doesn’t get overwhelming. It’s surprising and heartening to go back and see what you’ve accomplished after just a few months!
Remember What Brought You Here
This one might be a bit sentimental, but remember back to what you loved about school as a child. A certain teacher, a specific class – it’s different for everyone. Whatever your answer, that thing, at least in part, is probably what led you down the path to teaching. It was a motivation. Further, remember what things your teachers may have done that made their classrooms a lively, interesting space. Sometimes, reminiscing about that feeling or that time is all it takes to put things into perspective. Teaching is a calling, and a noble one at that. Never lose sight of the impact you can make on another generation of learners.