Vladimira Chalyova

Motivating our students – Vladimira Michalkova

Motivated Students Motivating Teachers

The more I think about it the more I think that motivation is a sort of Holy Grail everyone is looking for even though nobody is sure what it looks like or where to find it. It is a miraculous ingredient that solves every problem and misunderstanding. Whatever you do in your life, you surely know that motivation is this something that’s hard to grasp and hold yet fills your whole mind and body with light when it is there.

Honestly, I could usually say that I am Miss Motivation herself, so it is very surprising that when the time has come for me to write about it, I have found myself going through days filled with the utter lack of it. It is not tragic, nor disastrous, and in a few days I will surely come to understand that this actually had been the best time to write about it. However, all I can offer you now are three things I have on my mind on how to get out of this state.

First, I have realized that the personal life of a teacher is more important than I’ve ever thought. Second, I have learned that teaching and life in the classroom is a symbiosis to which everyone brings something to help the others thrive. Third, I have learned how to accept the gifts my students have and want to offer.

I have been lucky enough to have wonderful students this year, and I like to believe they can motivate me now as I have been doing for them all year long. I don’t need to share my problems or express my moods when I am with them. Students respond from within the atmosphere a teacher builds for them by responding in a similar way to what they are surrounded by. They don’t have to tell me “I had a bad day”. I know.

These days, I feel empty-handed when entering the classroom – no ideas, no enthusiasm, and no great solutions. Yet, I always come to my students with love, understanding and trust. I trust in their power to motivate me. I guess it will take me a few days to get over this, but I can tell you now:  they are doing it. They come closer, share more about themselves and tell me what a good teacher I am. Did I build that in them? Yes, I’d like to believe that I did.

Well, just forget everything you’ve learnt or have been trying to learn. Go and treat yourself. For the first time in a long time, I am reading a book not at all related to teaching. I notice the world around me – the clouds, the flowers and the little bugs.  I try to concentrate on what is here and now. I do what I have advised my students so many times. I do all of that because I think that whatever it is that took my motivation away will vanish sooner or later. Until then, there is no use spending too much energy, time and thought on pondering over it and sinking even deeper into the lack of it.  Could it be time to recharge, time to walk off the worn paths that lead nowhere anymore, time to re-evaluate my priorities again? Yes, I’d like to believe it.

I stepped out of that way a bit today by taking an uneasy and kind of silent step. Hoping no one would notice and at the same time hoping for a spark, I reached out and revealed what I am going through to my friends on Facebook. I got a tight hug back from them. Is this how we motivate ourselves? Without a perfect theory, do we appreciate the leap of faith others take as we reach out to them with a helping hand?

Yes, I’d like to believe it.

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Vladimira Chalyova

Vladimira Chalyova teaches English as a foreign language at State Language School in Slovakia. She teaches general and business English to adults and teenagers. She is interested in student-centered approaches, developing learners' autonomy and believes that a teacher shouldn't be a slave of course books and that inspiration, motivation, purpose and meaning are essential in learning. She brings colours, crayons and surpr@ise (surprise + praise) to her classroom and just recently also on the canvas.

5 thoughts on “Motivating our students – Vladimira Michalkova”

  1. Great post vladka as usual!
    Things, even trivial, can sometimes be motivating. This is the story of how Ali got motivated to learn English. At first sight it may look far-fetched and funny, but it really happened. While Ali was studying at high school, his father happened to be his English teacher there. English was one of the most fearful subjects in which the students showed the least interest because they saw no convincing reasons to learn it. As part of the formative assessment, the teacher appointed a date for an exam. He made some questions for the test. Desperately frustrated, Ali decided to do something about it. So he kept an eye to know where his father was hiding the question sheets. He got to know the hiding place, found the sheets and copied the questions. He searched for the answers in the book, did the test, and got 13 out of 20 (pass grade over 10). He could have answered all of the questions correctly. However, in order not to arouse his father’s suspicion, he left some of the questions unanswered. Everybody was amazed. In fact, he did better than all of the students in his class. He won the respect of his friends and the English teacher at school. From then on he thought learning English would bring him prestige and respect. Highly motivated, he decided to improve his English on his own. He started with meager facilities available, a book on conversational English, searching for ways to learn as much English as possible. This is how he was motivated. Motivation sometimes comes up through ways we may never think of.

  2. Love it!

    I’ve been facing what feels a huge challenge at work. It has the power to completely de-motivate me, but I choose to see it as coming from inside me. As a personal challenge to grow, to be true, to change and to love.
    My students see this struggle – like you, I don’t need to talk to them about it; but they feel, and see.
    My life is my example – nothing more.
    Thank-you, Vladimira, for sharing – I’m glad I shared with you.

  3. ‘Without a perfect theory, do we appreciate the leap of faith others take as we reach out to them with a helping hand?’

    This chimes with the experience I had last night watching a film about the performance artist Marina Abramovic who created a huge stir in New York last year by simply sitting in a gallery (the MOMA) and allowing anyone to come up and just exchange eye contact for as long as they wanted. The effect of this was electric, and, as one art critic noted, largely due to the fact that she gave EQUAL and UNDIVIDED attention to whoever came and sat in front of her. The effect on her was physically draining but – at the same time – sufficiently envigorating to sustain her through 5 or 6 hours a day over three months -not dissimilar to the hours a teacher has to put up with!
    The point was that the motivation (if motivation means energy) that was generated was generated by her committment to each individual in the room. A lesson here?

  4. Dear Vladka,

    What a superb post – thank you for putting yourself out there. We all have days like that and I completely agree that a change of scenery helps tremendously.

    Sometimes, trying to motivate others can have a drainingeffect on us, the educators, but the saying “stop and smeel the flowers” is absolutely spot-on, whoever said it : )


  5. Vladka, thank you for sharing your feelings and reflections. No one can always stay optimistic and upbeat. We all have our low moments. And it takes courage to open up and say that you’re not OK.Thanks for being sincere and not pretending!

    You sure right to say that our work and life are so intertwined that they never fail to influence one another. Our success or failure in one of them affects our performance in another. And if we are going through tough times in one aspect of our life we can’t ignore this and pretend that we’re doing well in any other area. That’s why our personal life and our close circle of friends are so important! It’s from them that we get the support and a helping hand when we most need them.

    But what is more is that our personal life enriches our professional life enormously! However, so much often we sacrifice our private life for work. At first it goes unnoticed but later on we find ourselves performing less efficiently, devoid of ideas and dispirited. Overworking is to blame here.

    Do you remember the episode from The 1% Solution for work and life by Tom Connellan (the book you recommended recently and the one I have been reading the whole day today!) when Jeff, the sportsman, and Ken were walking up the steep and physically demanding mountain path? Ken was focused on the path and on managing to keep up with Jeff thinking that this challenge was the reason why Jeff had brought him there when suddenly Jeff stopped and pointed to a picturesque lake beneath them. And that beautiful lake and the breath-taking vista were the reason for getting there but not that slogging and walking hard up the path.

    This is what we all need to remember. We need to stop every time and then to look up and see the world around us! We need breaks and quality personal time to get us energized and back to our feet.

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