It may not be our talents and skills, our roles and responsibilities, or even our personality that get us out of bed and into school of a morning; it’s our motivation.
A school needs self-motivated teachers like a pen needs ink. Their energy flows through the corridors and classrooms, motivating the pupils and creating a ‘can do’ attitude.
We are models for our students to follow, and when we are feeling motivated and energised, it’s infectious. A growth-mindset tends to emanate from the motivated teacher. Sadly, the same may also be said when we are feeling demotivated, stressed or dissatisfied. Children can be surprisingly perceptive.
Motivation is not a jacket we wear to school and take off when we return home again; it is with us all of the time. But it is often only in our workplace that we can do something about it. And if we don’t, then sadly it is not at work that we see the effects of being demotivated, it is when we get home that we so often vent!
The challenge of staying motivated
So how do we stay motivated? Motivation is a funny thing. Too many of us live in our head and use our body to transport our brain from one lesson to the next, pausing only to water it with coffee now and again, so it’s very easy to believe we can rationalize what motivates us, just as we think we can rationalize anything else.
But motivation doesn’t lie in the head. Like so many important drivers, it is deeper within us and not so easily rationalized. It’s instinctive, invisible. We know when we feel motivated (often we say we are ‘buzzing’ or just plain ‘happy’) and we certainly know when we are not. But we may not always know exactly why one thing motivates us over another, or why some tasks are put off again and again until deadlines loom.
Motivation, like so many other ‘invisible’ elements of the school environment, has a significant impact on what we think, why we think it and how we feel. As the educationalist, Erik Jensen, tells us, “How we feel is what’s real; it’s the link to what we think.”
But addressing those invisible drivers can have very visible, physical benefits. Talking to one another in the language of our motivators raises morale, increases productivity, and reduces absenteeism. Identifying our intrinsic motivation means knowing what ‘makes us tick’ and such insight can bring enormous benefits, both for ourselves and for those around us.
Arguably, we all have the same motivators within us, but we rank them differently, depending on our wants and needs and our current circumstances.
Unlike our personality, motivation is dynamic, it changes in response to our situation. But it is possible to identify common motivations in all of us.
Types of motivation explained
We can easily identify different types of motivational factors by referencing Motivational Maps, designed by James Sale. These show the nine motivators that are in all of us. Using a series of questions, the Maps identify how a each of us rank them – from our top motivators down to our lowest.
Such motivators include:
Motivated by meaning and benefit to others; likes to see the bigger picture and ultimate purpose in what they are doing (many teachers record this as their top motivator!).
Motivated by creating new ideas and solving problems; change-friendly. Creators are at their happiest when facing new problems to solve (and demotivated when there is no need for creative solutions!).
Motivated by security and stability; change-averse; Defenders seek the security and reassurance of long term friendships and predictable futures at work.
Motivated by autonomy – the freedom to make independent decisions, regulate their work and manage their own time.
There are others. Knowing what motivational type you are is very liberating. It explains why you react the way you do in certain situations.
It’s easy to dismiss such invisible things as of less importance to the visible work we do, or the visible rewards around us. But let’s face it, we don’t all enter teaching only for the money or the holidays (despite what our friends outside the teaching profession may say). There must be something else that drives us on to do this most challenging of jobs. There is, and it’s deep within us. The Motivational Map helps us rediscover it.