We could go on and on about how rewarding teaching ESL students is. But the truth of the matter is, like in any profession, it's sometimes hard for ESL teachers to get up in the morning, too. We may greet our students with a great, big smile, each and every time - but are we really motivated to teach that class? What motivates ESL teachers and why is being motivated so important?
Let’s assume that you’re all teaching ESL because it’s your choice, and it’s what you enjoy doing the most. Sometimes, that’s not enough. And although there may be external factors that contribute to your lack of motivation, like salary or general working conditions, here we look deeper into what motivates you personally - in other words, what gets you fired up for a class no matter where your ESL school is.
Let’s consider the “why” first. If you're highly motivated you have better chances at living a healthy, productive happy life. And naturally, this healthy glow and inner happiness will shine through and pour forth into everything you do with your students. You want to give your students the best ESL experience, right? And of course you want them to be motivated, but you have to take care of your motivation first.
Here are some of the things that motivate ESL teachers; if you feel you sometimes need a little nudge or whiff of inspiration these might just do the trick.
How To Stay Motivated 24/7
Always Remember Your Vision
Why are you teaching ESL? Do you believe it’s important for those in your country who don’t speak English to be able to? Do you want to help people bridge communication barriers? How important do you think your job is? What do you perceive your job to be like now, and what would you like it to be in the future?
These questions should help you define your vision if you haven’t already defined one. If you have a vision, you are in control of your destiny and your own life. A lack of vision will only lead to a lack of control and the inability to make your own choices. That’s not very motivating. It’s also important to recognize your barriers to making this vision a reality. What can you do to overcome these obstacles? Overcoming barriers is tremendously liberating - and motivating!
Making a vision a reality may seem like a tall order. Which is why we must take it one step, one day, at a time. First, you define a major goal, like something you wish to accomplish by the end of this year or next. A Master's degree? A research project? A better paid job? A teaching position in some exotic location? Surely, you have clearly defined goals for your class. How do you go about achieving them? By teaching them one structure, one set of vocabulary, at a time. The same applies to your major goals. The best way to achieve them is to break them up into smaller, more attainable steps.
For example, if you want to teach ESL in a foreign country, first you do your research into places and requirements, then you go about gathering all of the information you need to supply in order to apply, and so on... Each step that is checked off your list brings you one step closer to your dream, and this keeps you motivated. So, if anything seems to be too big a task, just break it up into simpler, more reachable goals. Once you accomplish smaller goals, you are motivated to tackle the bigger ones.
Nothing is more motivating than finding a group of like-minded individuals who share the same dreams and are dealing with the same frustrations. Motivation is contagious. If you surround yourself with people, whether they are ESL teachers or not, who are highly motivated and visionary, chances are you will catch the fever and be raring to go!
Learn From Mistakes
The big, fat “F” for failure is something every student dreads, but every teacher, as well. What most forget is that a failure is an opportunity, a chance to keep going till we get it right. The fear of failure sometimes paralyzes, it weakens us to the point of procrastination. Instead, we propose you take each failure as a motivating tool, something that you can use get it right the next time. Use your failures to motivate you, but plan for success. Good planning, time management skills and general organization will get you where you want to go – every time.
Above all, remember this: motivation is a learned skill. Motivation is not about automatically bouncing out of bed, grabbing books and materials and dashing off to school.
It runs much deeper than that – it’s deeply rooted in your vision, dreams and goals. Keep yourself rooted to that, and you will be motivated to teach any class, any group of students, at any level.
Hopefully, you will find these little nuggets of wisdom helpful. If you have any nuggets of your own to share, please do so below!
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