Staying healthy and motivated – Scott Thornbury

Scott Thornbury

What Motivates You As A Teacher? 

— Scott Thornbury

It’s not the best of times to be a teacher. In Spain, where I live, and in response to the deteriorating economic situation, the government has just announced an increase in class numbers and an increase in teachers’ hours. Not only is this likely to reduce the quality of education, but it reinforces a perception that teachers are undervalued (there’s no concomitant increase in teachers’ salaries, of course) and it contributes very little to teachers’ self-esteem. Not very motivating!

It’s worth reminding ourselves, though, that – even if our governments don’t value us – our students do. Who, apart from their parents and siblings, has made the biggest impression on their lives, after all? Ask anyone to name a formative influence on their lives and chances are, they’ll name a teacher.

What do teachers do, then, to validate their role in education and to retrieve a measure of self-respect?

I decided to ask my Twitter followers. My question: What motivates you as a teacher?

These are some of the answers I got:

As I sifted through the responses, I found they fell into four main areas:

  1. Learner feedback/ results. For example: “I love when the light comes on in a student’s eyes and you know that they’ve ‘got it”
  2. External validation: “Appreciation also helps to raise motivation..whether from students or from your boss”
  3. Intrinsic drive: “Continuous professional development & using my new knowledge to help students”
  4. Peer support/community: “What keeps me going is the experience of knowing extraordinary people every year”

Each of these areas is within the teacher’s control. 1. You can get results, because you know what you’re doing, and you do it well; 2. Your students – and even your boss – will appreciate you if you do your job; 3. You can push yourself even further, because you’re always learning; and 4. You can become part of a community of teachers who you care for, and who care for you.

And (with regard to point 4) that’s why ITDi is such a great idea: it extends the notion of community to a global level.


Connect with Scott, Chuck,  Tamas, Vladimira, Nour,  Ann and other iTDi Associates, Mentors, and Faculty by joining iTDi Community. Sign Up For A Free iTDi Account to create your profile and get immediate access to our social forums and trial lessons from our English For Teachers and Teacher Development courses.

Like what we do? Become an iTDi Patron.
Your support makes a difference.

Staying healthy and motivated – Chuck Sandy

Listen CarefullyChuck Sandy

Listen. When I hear people say things like, “I can’t seem to get myself motivated today,” or, “I’d like to spend the whole day doing nothing” I know what they mean because sometimes I feel that way, too. Yet I also know that no one really ever does nothing. I never do.

My nothing consists of walking nowhere in particular, pulling little weeds from my garden, and needlessly reorganizing my books. While doing these things I might look unmotivated and unproductive but it’s this doing nothing that motivates me to do more. It’s when I dream and think things through and I am telling you because I want you to know me. You understand this, right?

I also want you to know that this is why I love the procrastinators, the dreamers, and the nothing doers in my classes so much.  Getting to know who they really are is something else that motivates me. I think about them as I weed and walk and reorganize my books.

I know from experience that thinking of these people as unmotivated and taking them to task for not doing the things we think they should be doing will cause us to lose them. We don’t want that to happen. We want to pull these people in. But how? It’s simple: Listen.

Make them realize you believe their lives matter.  Do this by taking their lives seriously, believing in their potential and demonstrating that — visibly. In a culture where taking anyone’s internal universe seriously is increasingly rare, you just might be the only person who’s ever done such a thing for them. Talk about motivation!

If you are suffering from motivation problems yourself and think this sounds nice but wonder where it’s  leading, then I’d like to give you a challenge: Go to class, pick your most unmotivated student and find something to compliment him or her on. Say, “Where do you usually go shopping. I love your style” Or ask a question. Say, “You look really tired. Were you up late last night?” Then, listen. Repeat this process over the next few classes. I guarantee you’ll start to notice a change in both yourself and in your unmotivated student.

Now, start keeping an eye open for this student and other dreamers. Whenever you see them, stop for a chat.  Invite them to join you for coffee if appropriate. Listen and share. Talk about your day, about whatever is going on with you, about how you’re tired because you were up late watching stupid YouTube videos.  Tell them about your partner if appropriate. Refer to that person by name, as if these students were a part of your life. When they begin to understand they are a part of your life, they will start telling you about what’s going on in their lives.  When they do, listen carefully. Of course, this process works with colleagues, too, and I mean both those colleagues you see every day at school as well as the ones who make up your professional community online.

We don’t listen to each other enough. Even as teachers, we rarely talk with each other about what’s going on in our lives, yet I have come to believe this is absolutely necessary. We need to share more and  listen more carefully to each other. If we consciously do this, we will start to feel better about who we are and what we do. We will become less fearful, our confidence will increase and we will become more motivated.

This is what I was thinking about today as I weeded the garden and I wanted to tell you about it because I want you to know me. I want to know you too. That motivates me.

Staying healthy and motivated – Naomi Epstein

Finding Motivation in Unexpected PlacesNaomi Epstein

As a veteran teacher, I can unequivocally say that finding a peer group of like-minded teachers, for both inspiration and support, is vital for retaining ones emotional health and desire to go into the classroom day after day. Whether this group of teachers is found in your school, in face to face regional conferences or online does not matter. The fact that you are able to discuss new strategies, argue over their benefits, share the successes and get support for the disappointments is really what counts.

That being said, motivation can also be found in the most unlikely places. As unlikely as taking up a hobby totally unrelated to teaching English.

Take bird-watching, for example.

Hardly seems relevant to teaching English, does it? Sounds like something most students wouldn’t be interested in.

Let’s take a closer look.

First, there is the emotional factor. Spending time outdoors, in nature, away from the classroom, the computer (and housework!) can be both relaxing and invigorating. Seeing a  flock of about 6000 Kites (birds of prey) circling overhead as they prepare for their nightly roost or discovering a long eared owl perched on a branch, so cleverly camouflaged that you would never have seen it on your own, can be awe inspiring. After such outings, a teacher may often find that her/his own “feathers” do not get easily ruffled in class when things don’t go exactly as planned. The enormity and complexity of nature can put things in perspective.

Secondly, nature and mankind are closely linked. There are geo-political issues (the fall of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War caused birds to change their migrating routes!) and there are cultural issues which can lead to very interesting discussions. Cranes are very significant birds to the Japanese. Owls are a blessing to farmers in some places (natural rodent killers) while looked upon in fear and dismay in other places. And those are just a few examples!

Basically, finding a hobby, any hobby, that “recharges your batteries” and expands your own horizons can help you remain a healthy and motivated teacher.

Staying healthy and motivated – Anna Loseva

Keeping It Fresh

It is only too obvious that everybody has their own personal tricks and tips on how to be healthy and what to do to boost motivation in a treadmill of daily work. Naturally, the ultimate advice here is to listen to your inner self. Body and mind know so much better what we need and are always giving us hints, so why not be responsive to their voices!

Being on good terms with yourself as a person, trusting yourself as a teacher, interacting positively with people around you all contribute to The Feel Good Sense – which is key. Do you feel it? If not, it’s well worth making a stop in your routine at times in order to take a reflective look from the outside. Such breaks have proven to be extremely useful to me. Their refreshing potential can be very empowering.

As this blog title supposes that I share my own perspective my post might look like a collection of imperatives, but of course these are just my ways of dealing with the imminent stresses of my own life. Take from it what you will:

*      Socialize and draw good vibes from good people. Find the time for your family and closest people, your friends and colleagues, both online and offline. Inspiration comes from so many sources, and motivation runs on the inspiration you get. I get mine to a large extent from the fabulous PLN I have built (and am still in the process of building), and the iTDi Associates who make up a large part of my passionate learning network.

*      Talk to your students about what you’re all doing in class, ask for their opinions, and appreciate their views.  Draw motivation from students’ responsiveness and feedback. The friendly rapport we establish can also be a fruitful way to enhance our teacher imagination. I feel it very acutely that every time I’m open in a lesson, it is sure to give way to more inspirational ideas. Staying open-eyed for our students’ reactions requires dedication and work from a teacher, but it pays off with great benefits!

*      Experiment and improvise. Tackle problems with creativity, and perceive them as challenges.

*       Do what brings you joy and try to avoid the mundane. When you have to handle boring issues, get done with them as quickly as possible and never let them occupy your mind.

*      Take a lot of rest and also take your mind off work matters regularly. Even though you love your work so much (as I’m sure you do), recharging is essential. I love to take warm baths, read Psychologies magazine, drink fruit tea and watch my favourite TV series, of which there are so many. Simple pleasures!

Make notes! Creative ideas are so transient, so make sure you catch the butterfly when it flies your way. Being the notebook addict that I am, I take an exceptional pleasure in making all different types of notes in all those different notebooks that I have. I’ve written about my addiction in detail in a post here.

*      Do some physical activity regularly, whatever feels good for your body, and your mind does not repel.

*      Eat healthy food of bright natural colours. Let’s admit it, vegetables and fruit look beautiful, and so they taste beautiful, too. Besides, an apple a day… you know.

*      Listen to the music that inspires you – and sing along with it! One of my many latest personal favourites is The Sound of Violence“ by Cassius in one particular remix version.

*      Keep it fresh. Don’t let your view of life get blurred.

*      Seek inspiration, from both within and outside!

*      SMILE and enjoy the springtime!! =))

I don’t always stick to all of the points, but I like to praise myself every time I do stick to some of these, and I can tell you – carrots are more effective than sticks. It would be very exciting to know what your several tips are. Please share some!

Staying healthy and motivated – Christina Markoulaki

Enjoying The View

 As a conscientious student who always does some research before doing her homework (whose benefits one need to be reminded of from time to time so as for motivation to be sustained!), I browsed the Net for information about how health can affect a teacher’s work before beginning this piece. Surprisingly enough, this is what I immediately stumbled on:

40% of teachers reported having visited their doctor with a stress-related problem in the previous year.

20% of teachers considered they drank too much

15% believed they were alcoholics.

25% suffered from serious stress related health problems including hypertension, insomnia, depression and gastrointestinal disorders.

(Taken from: )

Upon reading this, it hit me: teachers need to consciously do everything in their power so as not to find themselves in a similar plight. How is effective teaching possible in the context of all the aforementioned problems — especially when sobriety is lacking!  This funny thought led me to the following realization: When embarking on a teaching profession, one must be prepared to face all difficulties and demands by discovering ways to renew their energy reserves. This is what I strive to do at the beginning or end of each tiring weekday.

First of all, enriching my educational knowledge by reading various teachers’ blogs and subsequently updating my blog always makes me feel eager to go into class and put these ideas into practice. Seminars, conferences and webinars constitute another great source of inspiration for all educators. A case in point is the iTDi webinar which was held on April 28th.

Also, pursuing an interest plays a crucial role in personal development. For example, whenever I read a good book of Greek or English literature, I invariably end up having more ideas about what material to employ in my next lessons. One of the English books I have recently read is Irvin Yalom’s “When Nietzsche Wept”, which subsequently led me to reflect on personal happiness and urge my adult learners to do the same in a related blog post I prepared for them. The more I read and learn, the more I yearn to share this knowledge with others.

One final activity that relaxes and totally invigorates me is cycling. The feel of the gentle touch of air on my face while cycling in the countryside gives me a unique sense of freedom, motivating me to work equally hard the following day. This sport has, quite unexpectedly, provided me with loads of classroom material, since I used photos of mountainous scenery and cycling equipment as prompts in speaking lessons. To me, every little thing in life, no matter how insignificant it may seem, can constitute EFL material with the proper manipulation.

Above you can admire the view I got to see (Heraklion can be distinguished in the distance) after cycling up a steep hill, sometimes through muddy, craggy paths and small streams, like in the photo below.

In the final analysis, this is what teaching is to me: physically and mentally exhausting and demanding at times, but totally rewarding in the end. Let us all do whatever we can to keep ourselves healthy and motivated so as to enjoy the breathtaking view at the end of the route, side by side with our students.

To round off, I’d like to leave you with these questions:

How often do you spend time expanding your teaching knowledge?

What interest of yours rejuvenates you the most?

Have you ever integrated any material derived from your hobbies into your teaching?