How to Stay Motivated as a Teacher
Teaching is a challenging job, but even during the most difficult years, most teachers can find a lot to be thankful for and a great deal to keep them motivated to move forward into next year with excitement. However, it’s easy to be motivated and energetic in the fall when you’ve just had a few weeks off to rest and prepare yourself for the new school year. Come winter or spring, it is a completely different beast to maintain your positivity and to keep yourself motivated until the end of the year, but it all begins with successful teacher habits.
Statistics show that about half a million teachers leave their profession every year, and a staggering 41% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of beginning it. Teaching is a difficult career and it’s not for everyone. But for those who are committed to their students and truly believe that teachers can make a difference, staying motivated as a teacher is absolutely key. Here are a few tips to utilize any time you feel yourself burning out.
Think About Your Students
When you get caught up with a frustrating student, school politics or a difficult parent, take a minute and think about your students. Think about the ones who have a poor home life and see school as their safe place of escape. Think about the students who struggled fiercely when they came into your classroom and are now thriving and showing great promise. Think about the students who put everything they have into their schoolwork because they want to change the world someday. Remind yourself that YOU have an important role to play in each of their lives, and that they need you. They need teachers who care about who they are as people and what they’re dealing with outside of the classroom, and they need teachers who know that it’s about far more than just grades. Staying motivated as a teacher should start with your students every time.
Sometimes when we’re feeling burnt out, changing something can be a huge breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s as simple as reorganizing the furniture in your classroom or mixing up the way you do morning work. Maybe it’s teaching a class outside one day or having a fun movie and snack day in class. We all flourish when positive changes take place, students and teachers alike, so it’s likely that your students will enjoy and embrace a shift in the norm as well.
Have a Heart to Heart with Your Students
We don’t suggest laying it ALL out there for your students, but it’s okay to be real with them sometimes. You can tell them you’re having a hard day or a rough week, and you can ask them to be patient and extra kind for a little while. This may not be effective depending on your classroom, but students tend to appreciate when adults are upfront with them. If your students respond well to your heart to heart, maybe you can ask them what keeps them motivated and you can learn something from them about staying motivated as a teacher.
Address Problems Immediately
Teachers tend to be stricter at the start of the school year, but as the months pass, rules get bent and standards get lowered, often because the teachers feel the time crunch and don’t think they can take time out of instruction to discipline or reinforce rules. However, ignoring problems only leads to them getting worse, and worsening issues in the classroom lead to a far less positive environment for both the students and the educators. When problems arise, no matter how large or small, face them head on and get them taken care of as quickly as possible by implementing successful teacher habits and the expectations you set at the start of the year.
Experiment with Teaching Techniques
Summer is often the time that educators scroll through endless Pinterest boards looking for new organizational methods and engaging teaching techniques. We know your time is tight during the school year, but if you come across something or hear about something new, go ahead and try it out now! There’s no need to wait for the next fall to implement new teaching techniques, especially if you’re burning out or losing your motivation. Experiment with different curriculum programs and new ways to instruct students on the basics. Especially if you’re excited about trying out a new teaching method, your students are likely to follow suit with your passion and will be more inclined to participate.
Read a Book
You can read a novel to take your mind off of your teaching woes or you can read a book about teaching and education to try to spark some inspiration. No matter what type of reading material you select, reading is good for the body, mind, and soul. It will help you relax and can often be very therapeutic. If you’re not sure what you want to read or what you should read, dig out some old books from when you were in college or ask a fellow teacher or mentor for some recommendations.
Write in a Gratitude Journal
Not only can writing be cathartic for many, but taking note of what you’re grateful for is an excellent exercise for anyone who’s feeling bummed out or down. It can be as simple as the weather, or it can be more significant like a healthy family member or a great financial surprise. Writing down big and little things regularly will not only help you shift your mindset to one of positivity and gratitude, but it will leave you with an entire journal filled with things to be thankful for. If you’re having an especially hard day and just need a quick pick-me-up, flip through a few pages of that gratitude journal and you’ll quickly remember how amazing your life is and how much you have to be thankful for.
Teach Something Meaningful
Teaching times tables or grammar or presidential facts can get old pretty quickly, especially when you’ve been teaching for years. Sometimes it’s a good idea to go off the beaten path (that is, state standards) and teach something truly meaningful to your students. Maybe this means teaching your high school seniors how to make a budget or write a resume, or maybe it means teaching your middle schoolers about the importance of teamwork and punctuality. Maybe it means teaching your elementary school students about important character traits like integrity, kindness, and empathy. It’s often said that people won’t remember what you say, but they’ll remember how you make them feel. Make your students feel something real and leave a lifelong lesson with them in the process.
Learn Something New
It can be easy to forget that life exists outside of your classroom walls. Learning something new will help you rediscover your own self, passions and hobbies, allowing you to relax more during and after work. Maybe you want to learn how to knit or paint, or maybe you want to learn a new language. Maybe you want to learn how to cook an authentic meal from a particular culture or how to bake homemade bread from scratch. Maybe you want to learn a new computer-related skill or play an instrument. No matter what you’re interested in, learning something new is a great way to stay motivated as a teacher.
Talk to Other Teachers
Sometimes talking to other teachers can be negative, but if you have some trustworthy mentors or positive colleagues that you can trust, talking to them can be hugely beneficial. Sometimes just knowing other people feel or have felt the same way can help you snap out of your funk and regain that motivation. Other times, fellow teachers may have some tips and tricks to help you fix a specific problem you’re having, or they can join you in implementing one of the suggestions on this page.
Go to a Workshop or Conference
Staying motivated as a teacher can be hard when you’re not regularly getting “fed” with teaching inspiration, new techniques for educating, and successful teacher habits to implement in the classroom and at home. Going to a workshop or teaching conference can completely revitalize your passion and energy for education, which will boost your motivation big time.
Maintain Your Perspective
If all else fails and the physical changes and tangible solutions aren’t effective, try your best to maintain your perspective. Yes, teaching is hard work, can often be thankless and can be incredibly exhausting. But at the end of the day, some kids are inspired because of you, and some kids who rarely feel safe and loved feel that way because of you. Keep your eyes on the big picture. The days and weeks and years will eventually feel like a tiny blip in the entirety of your life, and you and your students will all be better off if you remember that helping students grow into successful adults is the end-all-be-all goal.