Twenty Tips for Motivating Yourself and Other Teachers
Throughout the Winter Months
When the memory of those beautiful fall days begins to dim, and spring still seems a lifetime away, we may feel our enthusiasm begin to take a dive. Many teachers begin teaching at 7:00 am and may arrive even earlier. During the winter months if there is an after school meeting, they may drive home in the dark also. What are some ways to keep yourself upbeat for your student? Remember: We can’t pass along what we don’t possess. Our students deserve committed and enthusiastic teachers. Try some of these ideas that have worked for me.
Fake it till you make it. This isn’t phony. William James, the psychologist called the the “as if” principle. If you want to feel enthusiastic, act “as if” you already are. I learned this lesson clearly during a particularly tough time in my personal life. It was my job to be at the school entrance to greet young children when they arrived in the morning. No matter how down in the dumps I felt when I arrived at school, after 20 minutes of greeting one child after another with a big smile and a friendly comment or two, I felt better for the whole day.
- Allow for spontaneity. Change your plans. Put a new twist on an old lesson. What is something you have never tried in your classroom before? Now is the time! When I was writing my two books for teachers I discovered something surprising. The story I wrote about was almost always the first time I tried a new activity in the classroom. If the activity was a success, then I would do it again in subsequent years. But it was almost always the first time I did the activity that was the “memeory maker.” Fresh ideas spark our creativity and engage students in new ways.
- Build an encouragement folder. Whenever someone writes you a positive note for any reason, pop that note into a folder. Pull out all those notes when you need to recharge your batteries. It will pump up your confidence and make you feel great.
- Lighten up! When you find yourself getting really angry about something, step back and try and laugh about it. Make it into a comedy routine if you have to.
- Read motivational books or inspirational thoughts late at night or before work in the morning. The morning news depresses me. I have found that I can’t listen to how many murders, rapes and fires happened overnight and then teach teenagers during the day. but with the right music and uplifting thoughts in my head, I’m the best that I can be. Don’t my students deserve this?
- Practice kindness. Kindness helps absolutely everything. It is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear. I’m far from perfect but I can tell you this: The times I haven’t been kind haunt me. Kindness lifts everyone, not just the recipient of the kindness, but the giver too.
- Take a class that will help you reflect on your job in a positive way. I teach future teachers but I still take classes with the same titles as the classes I teach. I always learn new ideas and teaching strategies in every class I take. I can also be a valuable contributor to a class I’m taking. Every time I have taken a class I’ve come back to the classroom with fresh ideas to try with my students. I don’t care how experienced you are, there are always new things to learn if your attitude is in the right place.
- Write down new ideas the moment they pop into your mind. Try to take some action on them within 24 hours. At my age, I need sticky notes to survive. I’m full of ideas that are gone in an instant. The creativity of the sticky notes compels me to use them to organize my thoughts. There are arrows, tabs, stars, neon bursts, and 4×6 sticky notes for more lengthy ideas. Use them to jot down ideas and then take action. Action will put you in a better frame of mind 100% of the time. Go for it!
- Improve your work space. Buy a new organizer or select a new picture. I work best when I’m surrounded by quotes that inspire me. If you don’t have an extra nickel to spare, clean your desk area. I’m very creative but my desk is always a mess. Every time I take the time to clean my desk it lifts my spirits. What is an added bonus? I find great things. I come across a new idea for teaching or writing that I only had time to jot down previously. When I discover it again, I run with it.
- Purge. Don’t stop with just your desk. Clean out your files as though you were taking a new job. that happened to me once. On the last day of school I didn’t know that I would be taking a new job during the summer time. I left years of files and had to start fresh. At first it wa scary, but it also felt great. I now had room to file all the new ideas and items I needed to do my job now. Purge as though you are moving.
- Record uplifting music. Listen to it on the way to work and while you are grading papers. I always play music as my students enter the room. It feels as though something exciting is going to happen.
- Compliment a co-worker. Better yet, put the compliment in writing. It will encourage the person receiving the compliment, but it will also make you feel great. Try to encourage. Try to compliment at least one co-worker per day. Make it your own secret challenge.
- Set goals that move and inspire you. Don’t choose hollow goals or goals someone else assigns you. Set goals that matter to you and move forward on them. When we make progress it builds our self-esteem. When we feel great about ourselves we can better inspire and motivate others.
- Create a new bulletin board or display in your classroom. Visually appealing surroundings encourage us and our students. Look at your classroom as though you are walking in the door for the first time. What strikes you? We spend way too much time in our classroom to overlook the way it makes us feel. Imagine how your students react to your room. Think of an idea that would engage them. Not artistic? There are wonderful posters available.
- Keep a gratitude journal. I record five things for which I am grateful every day. Guess what? This simple activity will keep you focused on what is positive in your life. You will begin to look for positive experiences rather than focus on the daily annoyances that creep into all our lives. Don’t discount this activity until you’ve given it a fair try. I think the outcome will startle you.
- Solve a problem. Instead of complaining about how things ought to be come up with a solution. Everyone will be grateful. You’ll be a hero and that always feels terrific.
- Attend an educational conference. You’ll rub elbows with other educators who are serious about improving their skills. You’ll return to school rejuvenated and ready to try some new ideas you discovered. You learn as much from the attendees as the presenters. Better yet, become a presenter at a conference. Share a few ideas that have worked in your classroom with other educators. It will grow your professionalism and theirs.
- Change your routine. Do you have a mental list of things you’ve been wanting to do someday? We all have a list like this. Take a weekend trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Call up an old friend or drop them an email. Read a book you’ve heard everyone talking about. Start a new hobby or reignite an old one. Do something different!
- Share ideas. There is so much talent among your co-workers. Find a way to have each of them share their best ideas with the rest of you. I once ran a monthly professional development experience at the school where I worked. Each month I had a few teachers share their best ideas. I was amazed at how much I learned. Don’t overlook the teacher in the next classroom.
- Don’t eat lunch with the crab apples. This may be the most valuable tip of all. Hang out with positive people. Spend time with other professionals who speak positively about students and those who are excited about making their classrooms and your school a positive place to be.
More than likely twenty ideas overwhelm you. Some of these suggestions may feel way outside your comfort zone or sound just plain crazy. But I believe if you try even a few of these ideas you won’t be just counting the days until spring; you’ll be doing things that make every day count.
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