Teacher Motivation: Conquering Classroom Stress

By Justin Lim on January 25, 2010

This is my fourth year teaching. According to national statistics, it's right about now that I should be contemplating a career change. That's the last thing on my mind. I love teaching and I love being in the classroom.

This week, as I mused about my last post about student motivation, it totally hit me. Besides all of the tips and tricks that I use to keep my kids engaged, one of the main reasons why my kids are motivated is because I'm motivated! Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm, and when kids see that I'm having fun, they want in on the action.

For as much as I love my job, it doesn't mean that it's not without it's struggles. We all know that teaching is an occupation that requires service and sacrifice. During these trying times, here are a few ways that I keep myself motivated:

1. Motivational Teaching Quotes - I like to post heartfelt teaching quotes around my desk at school and at home. Sometimes, I need a little reminder of why I became a teacher. Here are a few of my favorites:

To learn and never be filled, is wisdom; to teach and never be weary, is love.

A good teacher is like a candle - It consumes itself to light the way for others.

Teachers teach more by what they are than by what they say.

Be the change you want to see in the world.  - Mahatma Gandhi

No man can be a good teacher unless he has feelings of warm affection toward his pupils and a genuine desire to impart to them what he believes to be of value.    - Bertrand Russell

2. Have a Memento Wall - I keep tons of mementos from past and current students. The picture above is a not so orderly wall filled with notes, trinkets, funny drawings and anything that reminds me of my students. It's my favorite part of my class because whenever I've had a long and weary day, I can take a walk down memory lane and remember the things about teaching that make me smile.

Another benefit of my memento wall that I did not think of, was brought to surface by a student who was not even one of my own. He was visiting with a friend and said "I bet you're a cool teacher." I asked him why he would say that and in response, he pointed to the wall with all of the notes and drawings. Without me realizing it, my motivational wall was communicating to my kids that they're important to me!

3. Work With Motivated People - I've heard it said that new teachers should avoid the teacher's lounge so that they don't become jaded. I don't know if I entirely agree with that because I learn a lot from the veterans in the lounge, but I also know that I'm lucky enough to be around a lot of motivated teachers. What is certain though, is that energy and enthusiasm spread. Enthusiastic teachers, even when they teach a different subject matter, help me to stay motivated about my own work.

4. Invite Old Students to Come Back and Visit - No matter how discouraged I might get, or how stressed out I may become, something that always cheers me up is when a former student drops by my class to say hi. Seeing how my kids have grown and changed helps to remind me that I really have made a lasting impact on their lives. It's especially rewarding when I'm visited by students who started out really struggling in high school, but have managed to put themselves on track for success.

I suppose that when we give so much of ourselves in service of our students, we can't help but to rejoice in their success and hurt with them as they go through struggles. I hope that when the weight of teaching feels the heaviest on you, that you too can find ways to remind yourself why you serve your kids.

How do you stay motivated? What are some of your favorite teaching quotes?

Warm regards,

Justin Lim

Rosemead High School
El Monte Union High School District


This is my reply as a principal to Mrs. Angela; The Head of English language after sharing with us this article.

Thanks a lot Angela for sharing the article about motivating students. Although it looks, at the beginning, as if this is something frequently addressed, it later made me stop and spend some time thinking about perceptions and how much difference they can make in one’s life.

When I started reading the second half of the post, which is about teacher motivation, I thought that he wanted to attract his supervisors’ attention reminding them of their role in motivating teachers. This was my perception, which was completely wrong. All of his ideas were about positive thinking and being proactive in motivating himself and not waiting for others to do that for him. It was about empowering himself; being confident, skillful and professional from within, without blaming others for his impotence or making him a better teacher.

Anyway, I was thinking of that while reviewing my own practices in life, while reading the article. I just liked to share my thought with you.

Hello Justin,

I loved your post today - very inspirational and important for teachers to know they need to enjoy what they're doing so that kids want to do it too! I was a control freak as a new teacher constantly working on classroom management. I love the inquiry process and when I let that lead the curriculum, we ALL have fun learning. Its hard to believe you've only taught for four years - your tips and strategies are always right on target. Thanks for sharing such great ideas!


[Edit: Response]

Thanks Linda! It's always an encouragement to hear from motivated educators who are willing to go the extra mile!

Warm regards,


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