What motivates you?
A couple of years ago, some teachers at my building trained for a 5k to raise awareness for a program we have for at-risk students. This meant that we had to train for months to be ready for it. I was out running several days a week, working on my form and forcing myself to go out (even when I’d rather sit on the couch eating junk food.)
One day, I was feeling very down and didn’t feel like running. Visions of being the only teacher not able to complete the race forced me out the door. As I ran, I pondered what makes us improve ourselves. Is it because of forces within us, or outside of us?
Our students face the same hurdles we do in making changes. It has always struck me as slightly unfair that it is easier to get out of shape, than into shape; easier to gain weight than lose it; easier to spend money than make it. For middle school students, sometimes improving their study habits can be just as hard as getting back into shape is for me.
It has always seemed easy to know how to get decent grades. Do your work, complete your assignments to the best of your ability, turn in your homework and study for tests. While it’s difficult, at times, to master a concept, a little extra study and you can do it. It is clear, though, that for an at-risk student, that can seem as insurmountable as my finishing a run.
What kept me on the road to the 5K? Coaching; Plain and simple, the people who have encouraged me along the way have kept me going. Teachers at school have helped with my form, my friends and family have helped with my persistence and my daughters have helped me overcome my laziness. I kept looking forward to the day I would run through the tunnel at Spartan Stadium and feel the pride of accomplishment.
These coaches have been invaluable to me. In the same way, coaches can be invaluable to at-risk students. By helping them with their form (building better study habits, helping with learning a concept), encouraging them in persisting (doing your homework, even when the TV is calling) and assisting them with overcoming laziness (aren’t we all a bit lazy, at heart?) mentors can keep them on the road to success.
As a teacher, I have mentored a lot of students. Over the years, I have watched students work hard, make those changes in their study habits and feel the pride of accomplishment. It is this that motivates me to be a better teacher. Helping others to achieve their best is the best feeling in the world.
What do you do to motivate and encourage students?