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January 25, 2010 Teacher Motivation: Conquering Classroom Stress By Justin Lim

    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


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