When a human soul is demotivated to do a task that soul is nonetheless required to do, the result is spiritual pain.
This applies to our students. This is why I'm so passionate about cultivating student motivation all across the school day while we guide them toward mastery.
But it also applies to us. When you and I do not want to do our work as teachers but nonetheless must do it, it hurts.
Thankfully, there are things we can do for our souls to make demotivation less a specter in our daily experience. They aren't magical silver bullets that make us forever motivated, but they are exercises that reliably help.
Today, I'd like to share one of those exercises, which I call “Ten Reasons It's Good.” Sometimes I use this by myself; sometimes I do it with colleagues. Each time, I benefit.
All that you do is, on a blank document or sheet of paper, create a list of ten reasons why the work that you do is good. Keep that word “good” in mind — let it be elemental and broad. Without much editing, I now will go through this exercise myself, right before your eyes.
- When I sit with my independent study student Olivia during my prep period, sometimes we share a bit of banter and laugh together.
- My colleague Jay has been wearing a mustache this year that strongly reminds me of Theodore Roosevelt.
- My students are taking to pop-up debates this year with unusual zeal; still many rough edges and room for improvement in their work, but I like watching them push themselves as speakers and thinkers and human beings.
- Jenna has made strides since the end of Semester 1 that make her proud, as well they should.
- BP's quiet sense of semi-sardonic humor is very enjoyable. (E.g., she got me a Grandpa mug for my birthday.)
- Today is parent/teacher conferences, and while they are tiring, they are also a lot of fun for getting to know and encourage families.
- I've got a student who I really do think could be an astronaut someday.
- This past weekend I got to meet up with an old teacher friend and enjoy talking about teaching a bit.
- We're getting closer to summer break each day, and I'm grateful because there is a lot from this year I need time and space to process.
- Some of my students have taken up penpals in British Columbia this year.
Now — typically, you keep your “ten reasons it's good” list private because the value of it is the doing of it. It's not really for sharing. But I share mine with you just to make transparent the process:
- It took me some time to get to ten.
- In the process, my mind meandered — sometimes to the reasons it's not good.
- I had to repeatedly remind myself that the goal here wasn't to give myself a perfectly accurate picture of what my practice is like. It's to list ten reasons why my practice is good, ten ways in which I've experienced it as good lately.
In short, while these lists are NOT comprehensive and do NOT do anything about the hard realities of our jobs, what they do accomplish is relieving a bit of pressure inside our souls.
It's not a silver bullet, but it's helpful.