What really motivates teachers?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 | Employment

Teachers want to know that people notice.  This may be their colleagues, other schools, and especially the learners and their parents.

Teachers want their principals to notice the job that is being done.  They want to know that their leaders know what is happening in the classroom.

Teachers like to know that what they do matters and that it is important to the school.  This means they want to know and feel that they make a difference.  They want to build and have a good reputation.

Teachers want to have the tools needed to do the job well.  It is frustrating when equipment doesn’t work, or if it takes a long time to be fixed.  Teachers want to have what it takes to get the job done.  [This is particularly true when technology has been introduced into the school – school managers have the responsibility to see to it that digital tools are well maintained].

Teachers want to know they are supported.  This means the principal must be approachable and is part of the team.  The leader listens and helps them solve problems.  There is a feeling of working together towards a common goal.

Teachers want to feel a part of the big picture and to know they are appreciated.  They are motivated when they are treated as the asset they are.

[This posting is adapted from Liz Cosline’s blog posting: “What Really Motivates Employees?”]

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9 Comments to What really motivates teachers?

Tuesday, 18 May, 2010

I particularly like your last point.

It is the job of a school leader to help their teachers see past their classroom walls and feel that they are part of a larger, shared vision for their school…. community…. country…

Once upon a time there were two bricklayers working on a new building: St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Each was asked what job they were doing. One man replied, “I’m laying bricks.” The other man said, “I’m building a great cathedral to the glory of God.”

The second man was motivated by feeling part of something bigger than just his job; something noble; something with lasting significance.

Children are much more important than cathedral buildings. If every teacher…. if every one of US could lift our eyes and catch a glimpse of what is possible when we all work together towards a greater cause… then we will be able to work with renewed energy and motivation, and every seemingly menial task becomes another brick in this amazing edifice that we are constructing together – a brighter future for our children and hope for our communities.

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Liz Cosline
Wednesday, 19 May, 2010

I am honored and interesting how you made it fit teachers also.

Beautiful days to you.


Wednesday, 19 May, 2010

See the following blogsite to see what really motivates teachers … to feel a part of the big picture and to know they are appreciated. They are motivated when they are treated as the asset they are.



Mark C
Saturday, 22 May, 2010

Your post reminds me of an old Life Sciences educator of Steenberg high school. A quiet, unassuming, diligent person called Brakkie (I don’t know why the children called him that). The day of his retirement he was given his “golden” watch and some paper certificate from the department of education congratulating for 30 or 40 years of teaching. He shoved the watch one side in disgust and basically crumbled the certificate up. For the first time he raised his voice delivering an inspiring speech of being in the employment of the community and not the powers that be. Now some people may say that he was ungrateful, but as a staff we understood. There were very few outside of the school who could motivate that staff to do what they needed to do…not a gold-plated watch..or a certificate for long service motivated him. He was motivated by the trust the community put in him to serve them.

The problem with today’s education system is that principals and educators are being micro-managed from the top down using business principles that don’t always work in the education system. You know the joke about managers being like seagulls. There is a way to do business without feeling, but then you may lose your customers, and we are losing them. Staff must suddenly be trained to do the things they should have had all the time. You cannot teach without passion, caring, sharing, understanding and communicating effectively. In our rushed world so much of this is stripped out of our schools by laws and policies and stuff.

In schools you need more leading than managing, people who know people and can nurture them. Everybody needs nurturing. What about coaching and mentoring? Maybe that will motivate people to deliver better work and feel better about themselves. Oh…and don’t forget…in order to learn the learners also need to be motivated. This should be more intrinsic and sometimes extrinsic.

Sunday, 23 May, 2010

What motivates me? When I get letters like the following:

Gail Ahrends
Monday, 24 May, 2010

Thanks Piet for being such a positive educator.

Kobus, I would like to make a comment wrt :

“Teachers want to have the tools needed to do the job well. It is frustrating when equipment doesn’t work, or if it takes a long time to be fixed.’

That is exactly what teachers are saying:

“I would like an Interactive whiteboard and a lap top and a data projector and internet and I cannot use the computer lab since there are technical problems and we waiting more than a week already for assistance, etc.”

Is this motivating to use technology in teaching?

Mark C
Monday, 24 May, 2010

To add to Gail’s comment. A few things I have experienced that are demotivating (as facilitator):
(a) The interactive whiteboard does not respond.
(b) The data projector lights are flashing red and they are new.
(c) The interactive whiteboard room is being used by one educator who hogs the board (which is fine with me along as it is used but when it is not used….it’s a problem) or a particular class is resident in a room and educators rove. Who is responsible for the board/laptop. This has become a logistics nightmare in our region where furniture is at a premium.
(d) Teachers need training (or so they say) but they don’t pitch up at training (too busy, and I understand that. Did the WCED not say that educators will be relieved of some of the pressure?).
(e) The network is down and they cannot log on.
(f) Insufficient software to do the most basic thing such as playing a video or the trial period of (Smart) software has expired.
(g) The politics around who can use the laptop and why.
(h) The internet (ADSL or VSAT) is down or interferes with the network.
(i) Viruses and malware….Aaaai! Gooi vir Symantec weg!
(j) Burglaries.
(k) Telematics. Getting patchy information about it and then schools expect support from Khanya concerning this.

So why do I tech most of my time and train tech stuff instead of just giving curriculum support? My answer is to alleviate some of the demotivating factors that will prevent educators of using ICT in their lessons. I can never apologise for doing more tech support than curriculum training because the tech support to schools is at best, poor. This is not because tech support is not working but rather that there are so many problems that the capacity to deal with them is insufficient. Educators (even the ones with some good tech knowledge) become demotivated when the tech problems are greater than they can solve. (Try doing a hard drive backup on the new servers).

Now….I would like some WCED officials (particularly the guys on high-the gods) to take over my job and get/keep those ICT equipment working all the time so that educators can get on with teaching. That would be a good motivating factor for me.

In any case…I’ll be out out of a job soon….2012 is around the corner or maybe sooner.

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