Motivation: A Superteacher’s Perspective

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At a faculty meeting this week, our new boss asked us how we could motivate some of our fellow employees.  This got me thinking about motivation.  I don’t manage my co-workers, obviously, but I do manage a classroom each month filled with a diverse group of student learners.  It is my job as their leader to create a positive environment in order to motivate them to learn.

In “5 Tips for Motivating Employees,” Lisa Quast discusses the challenges managers face in motivating their employees.  Quast’s first tip is for managers to “[a]ct as a role model and help inspire employees to identify what they are passionate about at work; then provide them with some projects in their area of passion or interest – a happy employee is a motivated employee” (Source).  Since teaching students and feeding off of that energy they give me is my motivation for working, the motivation is cyclical.  In the classroom, I model the behavior I want to see in my students: positivity, an excitement to learn, and a hardworking spirit.  Again, these are the qualities I want to see in each student each day.  Of course, it’s also extremely important to motivate and inspire students by giving them interesting work to do.  Looking at daily tasks and big projects with an editor’s eye is important to tweak work to best meet my students’ needs.

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Quast’s second tip is to “[c]learly define the organization’s vision, mission and strategy as well as the goals and objectives of each employee (and include your employees in the crafting of these)” (Source).  In the classroom, it is important to start with why.  My first day material gives students a clear vision of what the month will be like as well as our mission together and a strategy for how to succeed.  Since the course requires audience analysis and audience feedback, there is definitely a sense of team in the classroom.  We also have many team projects.  I would like to use Quast’s advice to make certain every student feel as if he or she has a particular role in contributing to the success of the class each time we meet.  I’ve been brainstorming a few ideas, but I’ll have to do my research on how superteachers can do this most effectively…

The third tip Quast gives us is to “[e]mpower your employees to succeed and delegate challenging and meaningful work – in general, people want to succeed and they want to continue learning and growing, so provide them with opportunities” (Source).  Obviously, in the classroom, a public speaking and presentation curriculum meets the needs of unique students.  For example, we talk about “delivery,” but each student must decide which delivery strengths she already has and which areas she must work on.  Additionally, when it comes to developing content, students have the opportunity to grow where they are.  If they’re good at brainstorming and research, maybe they need to work on structure and organization.  No matter what students master, there is always room to grow.  The wonderful thing about teaching public speaking is that there is no perfect speaker.  It’s a subject you can study for the rest of your life and still read about new ideas and see new approaches.

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Fourth, Quast suggests, “Work with each employee to create their own personal development plan. Then, provide them with coaching and mentoring and help them increase their skills and their sense of competence and accomplishment” (Source).  And lastly, going hand-in-hand with her fourth tip, Quast believes we should “[m]onitor the progress of your employees towards accomplishing their goals and objectives – then provide rewards to reinforce positive behavior, increase their sense of progress and keep them motivated” (Source).  Tip four and five differentiate a teacher from a superteacher.  A teacher knows she must wear many hats: coach, mentor, public speaker, presenter, but a superteacher puts on and wears the hell out of those hats.  A teacher lectures and thinks the smart students will “get it.”  A superteacher meets students where they are and works to help each student do well individually.  A teacher is motivated by student success.  A superteacher is motivated by the entire learning process.

Additional interesting articles include Glenn Llopis’s “The Top 9 Things That Ultimately Motivate Employees to Achieve” and “Putting ‘Employee Motivation’ In Its Place” by Mary McCoy.  Llopis says motivation factors include trustworthy leadership; being relevant; proving others wrong; career advancement; no regrets; stable future; self-indulgence; impact; and happiness (Source).  I like the idea that achievement is based upon multiple factors.  Each student (or employee, in this case) requires a unique combination of factors in order to feel motivated.  I also like McCoy’s ideas about employee motivation.  She claims that external motivation is limited and that people in charge “are forced to continually refresh the incentives to keep them alluring” (Source). Instead, McCoy urges us to think about motivation as something that should be cultivated internally.  She says, “Inviting/allowing an employee to work in sync with how he is hard-wired draws on his natural sense of intrigue—which is a pure motivation without tricks to make it happen. And this deep-seated motivation sustains over time” (Source).  Superteachers: What motivates you?  How do you motivate your students?

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